How Lantau can ease the strain of tourist influx

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 March, 2013, 4:49am

The influx of tourists during the Lunar New Year once again put Hong Kong's receiving capacity (particularly in the hotel and retail sectors) to the test and highlighted the need for a strategic rethink.

One of the key issues at stake is the pressure of peak spikes - for example, during the Lunar New Year, "golden week" and the peak seasons of major trade exhibitions (a few weeks in April and October) - on receiving capacity. The Lantau Development Alliance believes that as a short- and medium-term solution, if visitors' demand can be spread out to other days of the year, it would help alleviate the pressure.

Another solution is to increase the capacity in the long term. On February 6, Legco supported a motion on "developing a new North Lantau" by a big majority. This showed wide support from the local community for such an initiative. The development of Lantau needs to be strategic, with the right sequencing of development.

Lantau's strategic positioning should be different from that of the central business district (CBD) in order to achieve a win-win situation, with a bigger slice of the pie for Hong Kong.

The alliance proposes that Lantau be positioned as a new tourism and Mice (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) economic zone. Similar to Orlando, Florida, the aim would be to attract the middle class and wealthier groups, families staying overnight and Mice visitors, such as small and medium-sized enterprises. More non-high-end hotel and retail facilities must be developed for this.

Similar to New York City, Hong Kong's CBD, meanwhile, would be positioned to attract big spenders such as CEOs and wealthy tourists.

When the receiving capacity problem is alleviated, the CBD could then strengthen its high-end tourism and Mice positioning by focusing on events such as the Asian Financial Forum, and antiques, arts and wine fairs, which would attract big spenders without generating massive traffic.

The first step is to increase hotel and shopping facilities, which are lagging in supply, while enhancing Lantau's transportation network. Lantau will then be able to act as a buffer zone to help increase Hong Kong's receiving capacity in the medium and long term.

Mice venues bring in many visitors who contribute to the hotel and retail sectors.

Any premature venue expansion will only add to existing problems. Therefore, in the best interests of Hong Kong, once the receiving capacity catches up in a few years' time, we can then plan Mice venue expansion.

Allen Ha, chairman, Lantau Development Alliance