Tourism Board to seek new sponsors
A sponsorship fiasco that left taxpayers footing a HK$1.5 million bill for the New Year's Eve countdown fireworks has prompted new measures that include widening the net for future sponsors of the extravaganza.
The Tourism Board vowed to seek sponsors through newspaper advertisements and secure sponsorships earlier in order to avoid a repeat of the frenzied scrambling for funds after two property developers decided, two months before the countdown, not to sponsor the event.
Henderson Land and Sun Hung Kai Properties, who had supported the show for four years, announced in October their decision to discontinue their sponsorships, but provided the same venue, the 88-storey Two IFC. In the end, the government and the Jockey Club each put up HK$1.5 million, while the board paid the remaining HK$5.5 million.
'The bill is not the most important part. Our top concern is that we would be left without a venue for staging fireworks,' board chairman James Tien Pei-chun said yesterday. 'To play safe, sponsorship [including the venue] for the countdown show will be finalised six months in advance instead of the usual two months we adopt for other events.'
The board would try to identify potential sponsors from diversified sources by placing adverts in major newspapers, Tien said.
In a separate initiative, ads will appear in seven newspapers this week inviting sponsorships for the board's upcoming events.
The unprecedented move is in response to lawmakers asking why the board tended to rely on the same funding sources instead of looking for new sponsors, Tien said.
'The economic outlook is not that good this year, but we are not worried about failing to find commercial sponsorship. It is not the reason behind placing the ads,' he said.
The board is looking at more than HK$56.2 million in commercial sponsorship this year, 25 per cent more than last year. A major part of the amount has been secured, executive director Anthony Lau Chun-hon said.
It expects to see 44.2 million visitors this year, 5.5 per cent more than last year. The forecast growth is lower than in 2011, during which arrivals rose 16.4 per cent to 41.9 million.
European debt woes are expected to reduce long-haul arrivals by 1.9 per cent to 4.7 million. And the negative outlook may also take its toll on the mainland's economy, leading to a smaller growth in visitors - from an increase of 23.9 per cent last year to an estimated 7.6 per cent this year.
The mainland is the biggest source of tourists coming to Hong Kong; 67 per cent, or 28.1 million, of all visitors last year came from north of the border.
To maintain the city's appeal, several new events are on the Tourism Board's agenda. The upcoming Lunar New Year celebrations will see a large feast of traditional poon choi, featuring big bowls of Chinese gourmet delicacies, held in West Kowloon, alongside a Chinese opera performance. And during the birthday of the deity Tin Hau on April 13, fishing boats will parade in Victoria Harbour.
The city is also looking ahead to the 2013 opening of the first berth at the Kai Tak cruise terminal. The board has launched a promotion to encourage cruise liners to berth in Hong Kong or make it their home port. Discussions will be held with ports in South China, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea to discuss planning regional itineraries, Lau said.
The cost, in Hong Kong dollars, of the New Year's Eve countdown fireworks display on Two IFC