Lack of funds poses threat to shopping festival
Dennis Eng and Martin Wong
The increasingly cash-strapped Hong Kong Tourism Board is reviewing the possibility of dropping next summer's shopping festival, one of three mega-events meant to boost visitor arrivals each year.
'We are considering cancelling the Hong Kong Shopping Festival. Because of the decrease in funding, we have to look for ways to reduce our expenses,' board chairman James Tien Pei-chun said.
'We will go to the Legislative Council and listen to the views of lawmakers on the plan. If they support the festival, we will try to find money for the event ... What we do not want to do is hold a half-hearted event,' Mr Tien said.
The board, which is reviewing its mega-event strategy, will consult its travel-trade partners before finalising the format of its 2008 summer promotion.
Singapore and Malaysia hold similar shopping festivals each year, complete with substantial discounts and street performances, to draw tourists.
The board spent about HK$9 million to organise the two-month shopping festival this year, the sixth consecutive year the event had been held. This was down from about HK$14 million last year, excluding spending on overseas promotions.
Total visitor arrivals in July and August, when the festival takes place, numbered between 4 million and 5 million.
An Audit Commission report said the shopping festival and the other two mega-events, the WinterFest at Christmas and the Lunar New Year night parade, received funding totalling HK$57.7 million last year.
The then financial secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen announced in March 2005 that HK$500 million in additional funding would be allocated to the board for new promotional activities in 2005 and last year.
About HK$470 million, for designated one-off promotional activities, went to the 2006 Discover Hong Kong Year campaign, the further development of the family and business visitor sectors, and promoting the Quality Tourism Services scheme.
About HK$70 million was left over from the Discover Hong Kong campaign, a two-year promotion in 2005 and last year that was carried over to this year.
The government did not grant any additional funding this year.