HK Tourism Forum 2004

Just back from the 3rd Hong Kong Tourism Symposium: Quality and Diversity,including a session focusing on services; another on tourism from mainland China, and one that (supposedly!) focused on diversity – including niche products and new attractions. After earning of this at the last minute, I went along, missing the intro speeches and joining the diversity session, along with a few others who are working on nature/cultural tourism in Hong Kong.

There was a pretty good turnout – well over 50 in the room, with HK tourism supremo Selina Chow sitting in for a while (before sampling other sessions). There were four panelists’ presentations.

Ambrose Cheung – had studied law, now in some govt dept if I recall rightly – started off, with some mostly general guff about events, esp big events like the Rugby Sevens, and the Hong Kong Marathon (which is a tiddler really; hardly an international draw).

Then Professor Lee Kam-hon talked about work of a heritage and culture tourism study group he’s in charge of; focused on The Matrix, in which all info about sites now resides so that Neo can become fully aware, and battle Agent Smith to save them all. Or something like that – the matrix has rough figures re values of sites etc; some quirky sites on a list we picked up afterwards. (Sorry, but I abandoned mine, so no details here; I promise you, you’re lucky.)

Next up was Allan Zeman, the man who had transformed Lan Kwai Fong from a backwater with a flower shop or two to a major nighlife district; could he similarly energise HK tourism? The audience listened raptly, as Allan Zeman gave a whirlwind tour of the best of the concrete parts of Hong Kong – wonderful airport, great city, great harbour (needs good promenades – yes indeedy, I’ll drink to that!) and so on: his Big Vision for Hong Kong Tourism. Oh, and maybe could have eco-tourism, and “keep the dolphins” (as if it’s ok to concrete the rest).

World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong (WWF Hong Kong) president Philip Kwok then gave a presentation on eco-tourism at Mai Po Marshes wetland reserve and Hoi Ha Wan (corals, marine park). Came across as nice bloke, but more than a little out of touch with Mai Po; ran out of time for much about Hoi Ha, tho did show photos of WWF’s unfinished new centre there – luckily without anyone shouting “It’s monstrous!”.

(How did such a panel get chosen, I wonder; why no experts on niche tourism? Ah, well, at least this gave the subject an airing of sorts.)

Then, time for some discussions. Is the Hong Kong government right to plan to organise grand events (those who remember HarbourFest last summer may shudder at the thought)? Of course, govt guys say so.

I got in a question – having been excited re session on niche tourism, I was surprised to hear so much about mass tourism (esp from Allan Zeman), while niche tourism barely covered; so is the plan to concrete HK, or instead of talking about “eco-tourism” are we really going to do it? Panellists were a bit stumped here; moderator Duncan Pescod – Deputy Tourism Commissioner – stepped in, saying govt depts are working behind the scenes on eco-tourism, and once they’re ready may be chance for people actually working in eco-tourism to get involved.

Oh, and I also managed to give some grief re Hong Kong Tourism Board’s promotions: big campaigns ignore or barely feature green side: a recent commercial with Jackie Chan just showed Hong Kong cliches. Someone else chipped in (or was he first?), saying Hong Kong has a lot to offer, but promotes so little of it.

After the three sessions, there was summing up session; all three moderators reported on goings-on in their meetings. Then Selina Chow gave closing address; much emphasis on need for HK people being good to tourists; plenty of repetition re “shopping” – because HK has such good public transport, you can even visit three shopping malls in a day (gasp!). But also, “you can be walking on a mountain, and shopping an hour later.” (Hmm, can we hope that the message is percolating through: Hong Kong is wonderfully diverse, deserves promotions and tourism reflecting this.)

[Now 19 March; today’s South China Morning Post mentions mainland tourist discussions at the forum, nothing of niches; Allan Zeman managed a good plug for Ocean Park.]

Allan Zeman was clearly not at all fazed by my bluster (yes, I’m not surprised either); in big article in pullout secion of South China Morning Post today (9 September 2004) he’s all excited about tourism prospects, including Disneyland, Ocean Park, and Macau casinos. Since he’s involved in at least the latter two, seems the Post has basically given him free advertising space for puffing personal projects.

Lan Kwai Fong, Allan Zeman’s key scheme, also mentioned: it “vibrates” he writes, which is news to me, as I find it a bit dull, and reckon most mainland tourists who are dragged around in evenings must wonder what the fuss is about. (I’m yet to see Allan Zeman there, checking the vibes.)

Allan Zeman did mention tourists could watch dolphins, but only performing ones at Ocean Park that I noticed. Gave cursory mention to people wanting more green spaces; but no mention of parks, nothing about the mix of city and countryside that truly makes Hong Kong special. Aaaargh!


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