As one of the four pillar industries of Hong Kong, tourism has a strong bearing on the city’s society, economy and its people’s livelihood. The HKSAR Government has to be far-sighted in strengthening Hong Kong’s advantage as a shopping paradise. Besides, it is pressing for our policymakers to have a flexible and innovative mindset to instil dynamism and vitality into the industry by resolving some pressing problems and devising effective long-term strategies to boost Hong Kong tourism.
As a hub in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong attracts tens of millions of visitors from various places each year. As of November 2013, the total number of tourist arrivals exceeded 45.79 million, up 12% year on year. As one of the four pillar industries of Hong Kong, tourism employs about 230,000 people and contributes 4.5% to the GDP, so it is very important to Hong Kong’s society, economy and its people’s livelihood.
With the signing of CEPA and its 10 Supplements, 20 measures on tourism cooperation have been launched. The residents of 49 Mainland cities are allowed to travel to Hong Kong under the Individual Visit Scheme. According to the latest figures of the Hong Kong Tourism Commission (HKTC) last year, the number of Mainland visitors to Hong Kong had exceeded 33.48 million person-trips as of November 2013, up about 10.1% year on year. Hong Kong has become the largest market of two-way tourism in the world. Thanks to their ongoing integration, the Mainland and Hong Kong will see a large inbound and outbound tourism market with a size of more than 120 million person-trips.
Yet, there are some looming problems for Hong Kong’s tourism in recent years. The industry is facing keen external competition, as neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region are striving for a larger share in the tourism market by expanding into the Mainland tourist segment and developing high-end tourism products. Indonesia and Thailand are working hard to improve their social order and cityscape and have introduced various concessionary travel measures. South Korea and Japan have streamlined their visa application procedures and invented new tourist itineraries. Singapore has made great efforts to develop its gaming industry and invested a lot in building novel tourist spots. Also in the running are Taiwan and Macau - they have attracted a soaring number of Mainland visitors by capturing the opportunities arising from the Mainland’s relaxation of the restrictions on its residents’ outbound travel. Even in such faraway places as Europe, countries there are examining the relaxation of the visa arrangements for Mainland tourists.
Faced by these external challenges, Hong Kong has to seek continuous improvement. It is urged to make good use of its existing advantages to attract Mainland tourists while injecting more fresh momentum to tourism with a flexible and innovative mind. Our city has to solve some pressing problems in the short run and devise strategies for the growth of tourism in the long run.
Inadequate Tourist Facilities
Pragmatic and proactive, the current term of the HKSAR Government endeavours to promote economic development. First and foremost, the Government has to actively assist the tourist industry in solving a series of pressing problems, such as the shortages of hotel rooms, parking spaces for coaches and even toilets. Efforts have also be made to divert the crowds in the shopping areas of Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay in order to alleviate the vehicle-pedestrian conflict and overcrowding condition caused by excessive tourists and ease the consequential conflicts between tourists and local citizens before they escalate into a social problem.
Hong Kong is a tiny place. As of November last year, the number of visitors staying overnight in Hong Kong stood at 21.09 million, up 8% when compared to the same period in the previous year. However, the number of hotel rooms only edged up by about 2% and hotel room completions are lagging far behind the growth of visitors staying overnight. Such a shortage would greatly weaken Hong Kong’s capacity to receive tourists and the trade’s service quality.
Take reference from overseas countries around the globe, the key to successfully offering endless streams of tourists pleasant travel experiences lies largely in governments’ work on positioning and planning, policy orientation, land supply, transport facility establishment, manpower planning, as well as on-the-job training enhancement.
Pressing for Long-term Strategies and Planning
The HKSAR Government must be far-sighted in formulating long-term strategies for the growth of tourism. To make Hong Kong more competitive in receiving and attracting tourists in the long run, more sites for hotels should be provided, more places for shopping and sightseeing be developed, new tourist spots be created, tourist facilities be upgraded, and in particular, dedicated tourist zones be set up. The Government should expedite the studies on the feasibility of developing lands in Tung Chung on Lantau and opening up the frontier closed areas, by which the entertainment, shopping and leisure areas specific for tourist reception can be separated from the urban areas for the daily lives of local citizens. This can alleviate tourist activities’ impact on the public’s daily lives in crowded places.
It is incumbent upon the Government to stay vigilant and make early preparations to strengthen Hong Kong’s advantage as a shopping paradise.
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