Lantau group looks to court mainland China tourists

The alliance of businesses wants to develop the island to help divert visitors from overcrowded areas, but its plan has been met with scepticism

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 March, 2013, 11:15am

A business alliance's proposal to develop Lantau Island into a commercial zone to divert tourists from overcrowded districts has sparked heated debate.

The plan by the Lantau Economic Development Alliance - which comprises 10 Lantau-based companies and community groups such as Disneyland, AsiaWorld-Expo and Ngong Ping 360 - has been met with scepticism from district councillors who challenge its feasibility.

The alliance's vice-chairman, Andrew Kam Min-ho, yesterday said the Hong Kong-ZhuhaiMacau bridge's expected completion in 2016 was an opportunity to divert mainland tourists from the busy Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui areas to Lantau Island.

"The problem at present is that the tourists are overcrowding some places," Kam, who is also Disneyland's managing director, told a Commercial Radio show. "And the rents have become high because of it. Even the MTR is more crowded [in the busy districts]."

He said that if more shopping malls were built in Tung Chung, a new town on Lantau, tourists would be drawn there and more jobs could be created for the locals. "Sometimes tourists don't just want to buy high-end products … Shops on Lantau Island could sell more popular commodities [and] tourists could buy daily products there [too]," he said.

The alliance's chairman Allen Ha, who is also the AsiaWorld-Expo chief executive, said the alliance recently submitted its proposal to the government.

Lawmaker and Islands district councillor Tang Ka-piu supported the plan, agreeing with Kam that some frequent mainland visitors preferred to buy daily items over higher-end goods.

But Yau Tsim Mong district councillor Chan Wai-keung cast doubt on the feasibility of the plan.

"It's all about the reputation of the district," he said. "Mainland tourists like to tell their friends that they went shopping in Tsim Sha Tsui's Canton Road and not in Tung Chung. It takes time for a district to develop its reputation."

Chan also said tourists would not go all the way to Tung Chung to shop for daily items when they could do so in places that were more accessible, such as in Sha Tin or Sheung Shui.

Central and Western district councillor Cheng Lai-king said it would be hard to divert tourists from the busy districts such as Causeway Bay to Tung Chung unless all the high-fashion shops moved there as well.

"It's like, if you visit Beijing, of course you want to go to Wangfujing," she said. Wangfujing is a popular place for shopping and dining in Beijing's Dongcheng district.

The alliance will be holding a recruitment event at the AsiaWorld-Expo on March 23, where 1,000 jobs will be on offer.