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Published: 18:54, February 03, 2023
Hello Hong Kong’s vitality boost
By Wang Yuke
Published:18:54, February 03, 2023 By Wang Yuke

An exhibitor and staff member from Art Basel talks to their oversea buyers during the live tour in front of the sculpture Feel, created by British artist Antony Gormley at the Art Basel in Hong Kong, May 25, 2022. (PHOTO / AP)

The government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s generosity in lavishing international tourists with a banquet of perks and benefits gained the resounding approval of people across industries, who are all anticipating an “explosive” increase in business activities and an upbeat mood.

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu announced at the launch ceremony of the Hello Hong Kong campaign on Thursday that the HKSAR government will give away 500,000 airline tickets to lure tourists from every part of the world to visit Hong Kong. The first phase of the campaign is estimated to be worth at least HK$100 million ($12.75 million).

“And they (tourists) can also take advantage of an array of special offers, vouchers and other incentives to make their experience in Hong Kong all the more fantastic and memorable,” said Lee.

The campaign complements a selection of major trade shows and conventions, as well as sports and arts events, such as the Hong Kong Marathon, the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament and the 100-kilometre Trailwalker; arts and cultural delights like Art Basel, the Museum Summit and the Hong Kong Arts Festival

The campaign complements a selection of major trade shows and conventions, as well as sports and arts events, such as the Hong Kong Marathon, the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament and the 100-kilometre Trailwalker; arts and cultural delights like Art Basel, the Museum Summit and the Hong Kong Arts Festival.

The 500,000 airline tickets mean “500,000 opportunities”, said the Hotels, Food & Beverage Employees Association. “Upon their arrival in Hong Kong, the 500,000 lucky tourists will be regaled with the city’s ‘cosmopolitan, hospitable and enigmatic’ ambience,” said the association.

The scale of this campaign easily surpasses the 60,000 air tickets given away by the Airport Authority Hong Kong in 2021 via lucky draw to Hong Kong residents and airport staff who had COVID-19 vaccinations.

Apart from the generous windfall for visitors from the SAR government, Hong Kong’s unique persona is already a tempting attraction for international tourists. The “meeting point of West and East” boasts spectacular night harbor views, green economy and natural landscape for outdoors activities, a repertoire enriched by the addition of Hong Kong Palace Museum and international fairs, conventions and galas to be staged this year. These will all inject vitality into Hong Kong’s economy.

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As the planet recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and the seamless connection between Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland and the rest of the world gets back on track, the Hello Hong Kong campaign and other initiatives for “telling Hong Kong’s good stories” are gathering steam.

Participants at the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon at the start of the race on Oct 24, 2021. (EDMOND TANG  / CHINA DAILY)

The free pickings and perks furnished by the SAR government are an optimal vehicle to reshape the city’s likability and positive narrative, which prompts an affinity and confidence in visitors to the city, said Allen Shi Lop-tak, the president of the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong. He said he expects an “explosive” barrage of business opportunities to land in the city.

The scrapping of requirements for cross-border travelers to have a negative polymerase chain reaction COVID-19 test and travel quotas to take effect from Monday, which was announced by John Lee on Friday, stirred exhilaration in Hong Kong and the mainland, where people voiced their euphoria on social media. The combination of the Hello Hong Kong campaign and full reopening of all the border checkpoints is bound to lubricate the mobility of people commuting between Hong Kong and the mainland for trade and logistic collaborations, which will expedite the resurrection of Hong Kong’s import and export market thanks to reduced cost of time and personnel as well as streamlined procedures for shipping, said Bruce Pang, chief economist and head of research at JLL Greater China. Predictability and efficiency are strengths of Hong Kong’s import and export trade, he noted. “Hong Kong’s entrepot trade (or re-export trade) between the mainland and rest of the world and the city’s overall export volume will see an exceptional rebound, spurred by the perfected ease and stability of cross-boundary transport,” projected Pang.

On top of the anticipated sunshine and rainbows in tourism, catering and hospitality, retail and recreational sectors, the city’s financial services and business services — another two pillar industries of Hong Kong — will surely recover the sound rhythm that went awry and will take the renewed hustle in their stride, as talents from the Chinese mainland and abroad will take their entrepreneurial plunge in the city, he said.

The spillover effect of induced consumption encouraged by the government’s efforts can’t be underestimated, noted Pang.

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Lauding the government’s campaign as a key step to incentivize tourists’ consumption and therefore revive the city’s economy, Johnny Hon Sei-hoe, the honorary consul for Grenada in Hong Kong and founder of the Global Group, said if the government can tap into the agency and influence of celebrities on social media for promotional campaigns, it will help to communicate Hong Kong’s allure far and wide. “If you trawl thorough Dubai’s and Singapore’s social media platforms, you will encounter a bunch of local KOLs (key opinion leaders) commissioned as an ambassador or the face of their cities to help with the promotion. Hong Kong should take a cue from the two cities, stepping out the outmoded zone,” said Hon.

He said he expects the private sector to invite high-profile guests and speakers with “pulling power” to grace upcoming conferences and events. Those influential figures are already attracting more visitors, Hon added.

The city’s catering and hospitality industry struggled to keep its head above water over the past three years with layoffs, downsizing, furloughs and wage reductions. In the light of the heavy blow dealt by the pandemic, the Hotels, Food & Beverage Employees Association suggests that proprietors of restaurants and hotels step up efforts to raise staff morale and enhance employee benefits, in order to elicit their sense of belonging and meet the surge in demand.

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