Leaving a good impression for visitors is crucial in tourism. This is the way to build up a reputation and to attract more tourists in an increasingly competitive market. The soft launch on Wednesday of our HK$8.2 billion new cruise terminal at the old airport site appears to have passed the test, although some arrangements such as transport connections still leave a lot to be desired. As the first cruise ship Mariner of the Sea moved on after a brief call yesterday, the challenge for a seamless official opening in autumn has just begun.
Much has been said about whether the terminal is ready for use. In recent weeks the roof has leaked during heavy downpours, but this is just a minor hiccup that can be easily fixed. The real test is whether visitors are happy with the facilities. As reported by the local media, some passengers were impressed by the terminal as soon as they disembarked at Kai Tak. Others, however, were not so patient with the transport connections. Some complained of having to wait for half an hour for a taxi to take them to the city centre.
The mixed reactions are to be expected. After all, teething problems for a project on such a scale is nothing unusual. The international airport at Chek Lap Kok was plagued by more serious glitches after relocating from Kai Tak 15 years ago. Since then, the airport has been consistently rated as one of the world's best. Compared to faulty flight information display boards and conveyance belts, the inadequacies identified at the cruise terminal are by no means disastrous. Given time and better co-ordination, it is well positioned to become another infrastructure project we can be proud of.
The government is pinning its hopes on the terminal to boost tourism and to help rejuvenate the old airport area. But with just 20 bookings in the first 10 months of operation, a better effort is needed to attract more cruise ships. Improvements in transport connections, catering and entertainment facilities in the area are also necessary for Kai Tak to restore its full glory.