Mall should offer more than shops

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 May, 2015, 12:37am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 May, 2015, 12:37am

Airport travel in a competitive market is about more than duty free shops, a place to grab a coffee and bite to eat in between flights and a smoking room. Hong Kong International Airport has won many accolades since it opened in 1998, but it needs to keep pace with the competition. Being near to the exit to the bridge from Macau and Zhuhai offers a significant advantage. The outgoing Airport Authority board chairman's unveiling of plans for the city's biggest shopping mall between Terminal 2 and AsiaWorld-Expo provides an ideal opportunity.

Vincent Lo Hong-sui had to fend off opposition from within the board to win approval for the idea. But there is every reason why it should be embraced. The 14-hectare complex, to be completed in three years, can expand upon what the airport already offers while providing new attractions for residents, mainland visitors and AsiaWorld-Expo patrons. That will be even more necessary when passenger numbers rise with the construction of a third runway. There will be shops and hotels, but also the chance to take on airports in Singapore, Dubai and Amsterdam, among others, in innovative thinking.

Singapore's Changi airport has among its attractions a giant slide, themed gardens and free city tours, games and movies. Dubai has a swimming pool and Amsterdam's Schiphol airport a branch of the famed Rijksmuseum, which provides a glimpse of Dutch art and culture. These are ideas that should be considered when choosing the final design. Hong Kong already has many malls; this one has to be more than merely bigger.

Proximity to the bridge will please mainlanders, who will be able to drive in, park, get shopping done and head home without the city crush. That will also gladden those Hongkongers who complain about cross-border visitors changing the face of neighbourhoods through their shopping habits. But they will also have a more spacious and interesting shopping and dining experience, as will travellers with time to spare before heading to destinations. It is an idea that can help push our city's competitive edge.