Bigger, better dragon boat regatta set for summer return to Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 December, 2009, 12:00am

The Tourism Board plans to expand the Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Regatta and return it to the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront next summer in a move aimed at drawing more overseas visitors.

Board executive director Anthony Lau Chun-hon said yesterday it was planning a five-day dragon boat carnival with financial support from the Home Affairs Bureau.

He said the regatta was expected to cost more than HK$10 million and funding may be sought from the government's mega-event fund.

The board planned to return the regatta from the Shing Mun River in Sha Tin to the Tsim Sha Tsui East waterfront, next to the promenade, Lau said. The first three days would comprise mainly corporate races, with the last two days focusing on international competition.

This year's regatta was held in Sha Tin over two days in May, around the Tuen Ng festival, by the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Association.

The board has long wanted to make the regatta a major annual sporting event, like the Hong Kong Sevens, to woo more tourists.

Held since 1976, the competition was originally organised by the board, but was handed to the association in 2000. It was nearly called off in 2004 because of financial problems, and still has difficulty securing sponsorship.

A staff member at the association said yesterday it would jointly organise the event with the board next year.

Paul Tse Wai-chun, lawmaker for the tourism sector, welcomed the initiative, saying: 'Tourists can be better involved in the event when it is held in waters off Tsim Sha Tsui.

'Hong Kong has the world's most beautiful harbour, and it would be good to organise the event with such a scenic backdrop. And dragon boat [racing] is a traditional Chinese festival that many tourists like.'

Tse hoped that different dragon boat associations in the city would be invited to take part to increase the size of the event.

The board also said the Hong Kong Food and Wine Festival, which was launched this year and was well received, would be expanded next year.

Board chairman James Tien Pei-chun said Hong Kong may record the same number of visitors this year as last, because numbers had picked up as the economic situation improved.

The city welcomed more than 29 million visitors last year.

The board previously said it expected a year-on-year decline of 1.6 per cent in visitor arrivals this year, citing the global financial crisis.

Tien said the number of visitors dropped 0.7 per cent last month compared with the corresponding period last year, a significant improvement from a 4.6 per cent decline when the swine flu outbreak began to affect Hong Kong.

On average, visitors stayed for 3.3 days and spent about HK$5,000 per person.