Promoting the City of Life


Tourist arrivals from the Middle East to Hong Kong posted a strong 28.7 per cent growth last year over 1999, with arrivals from the UAE soaring by a whopping 80 per cent.

Since the September 11 attacks in the US however, tourism to the Chinese territory has slumped sharply. But this sharp fall has been cushioned somewhat by continuing growth from the Chinese Mainland. From the Middle East and Europe too, the fall has been more modest at 2.7 per cent.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board is pursuing a two-fold strategy to aid recovery of the travel market, Sue Whitehead, the board's representative in London, tells TTN.

Q. The tourism board in its press release dated October 23 has said there has been a moderate fall of 2.1 per cent in visitor arrivals in Hong Kong since the events of September 11 thanks to arrivals from mainland China. Looking ahead, does the board expect a recovery in the near term and what measures, if any, are planned to aid such recovery?

A. The timing and speed of the recovery will clearly depend to a great extent on world events over which we have no control.

In the meantime, our strategy is twofold: We continue to work with trade partners in tactical areas to maintain market presence and market share; and we are remaining flexible with our funding to support markets of strength and to return quickly and actively to other markets when consumer confidence is fully restored.

Q. Which is your target market in the Middle East? From what area of the region have you seen the maximum number of arrivals? Could you provide figures of Middle East and Gulf tourist arrivals over the past two years?

A. For 2000, the last full year for which we have figures, our total Middle East arrivals were 81,108 which represented a growth of 28.7 per cent over 1999. Our biggest markets in the region were Israel, Turkey, UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Our biggest percentage growth was from the UAE at nearly 80 per cent growth.

The year 2000 was a record-breaking year for Hong Kong tourism. We welcomed over 13 million visitors, an increase of 15.3 per cent over the previous year, comfortably beating the previous record of 12.97 million visitors in pre-handover year, 1996.

These numbers took Hong Kong to 14th place in the WTO's overall rankings of world tourism arrivals - and Hong Kong was the only city destination in the top 15 ... all the others being countries.

Q. What new projects are currently underway to promote tourism? And have you seen an increase in tourist figures as a result of promotional campaigns undertaken by you over the past few years?

A. In April this year we launched a two year programme named "City of Life - Hong Kong is it"!.

The aim of this programme is threefold:

  • To encourage people to stay longer and visit the lesser known parts of Hong Kong as well as the major tourist icons, by way of highlighting events, festivals and attractions across Hong Kong's 18 districts.

  • To reinforce Hong Kong's position as the events capital of Asia via five major events. For example, the first of these is Hong Kong Lights Up from December 2001 to February 2002. This is a spectacular festival of lighting across the territory.

    Next summer we have the Mega Hong Kong Sale in July and August. And in early 2003, we have the City of Life Street Carnival which will feature non-stop action day and night as Hong Kong welcomes a huge range of local and international entertainment.

  • To encourage a hospitality culture amongst Hong Kong residents.

    Q. Are any specific promotions/activities planned by the board to fuel tourism growth from the Gulf and wider Middle East region?

    A. We continue to work closely with the trade, most especially on training and familiarisation with the Hong Kong product. We also continue to support Arabian Travel Market as a good opportunity to reinforce our trade relationships across the region.

    A new international exhibition centre is to be developed next to Hong Kong International Airport. Due for completion in December 2005 - it will eventually have 80,000 sq m of exhibition space.

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