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Business leaders say Hong Kong must act quicker in face of change

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 January, 2015, 11:53am

Hong Kong's role as the gateway to and from the mainland could be at risk unless the city becomes more socially inclusive and acts more decisively to capitalise on shifting business trends.

"The way things are shaping up in Hong Kong I think it is going to be a very difficult time ahead," Vincent Lo Hong-shui, chairman of Shui On Land, told an audience of business leaders assembled by the South China Morning Post as part of its 'Redefining Hong Kong' seminar series.

Lo said Hong Kong should do better at spotting the business opportunity presented by mainland tourists who come to spend in the city, rather than make them feel unwelcome.

"Why do we want to chase our Chinese customers away from Hong Kong? Why would we want to do that? I just don't understand it," Lo said.

Lo, the man behind Shanghai's famous Xintiandi entertainment development, said looming capacity constraints at Hong Kong's airport and a lack of "joined up" thinking about shopping potential around the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge project meant opportunities would be missed to sell to the growing number of mainland tourists coming to Hong Kong.

"I'm sure there are many ways that we can add facilities to attract these people that are actually going to help our economy."

Lo's sentiments were echoed by Albert Ng, Greater China managing partner at Ernst & Young.

"Hong Kong needs to get better at social inclusion," Ng said.

John Slosar, Cathay Pacific chief executive, said Hong Kong's historic strength in connecting international banking, trade, logistics and tourism would help ensure a profitable future - but only with hard work. "The world is changing and we have to change with it," Slosar said.

Professor Chan Ka-keung, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, said Hong Kong's status as a gateway had changed throughout history and that such change must continue to be embraced. "We should not be afraid of China's opening up, or of competition from Chinese cities - or any city," he said.