Budget 2014-15

Big spenders targeted for cluster of five-star hotels planned at Kai Tak

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 February, 2014, 4:51am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 February, 2014, 5:02pm

The city is lining up a cluster of five-star hotels next to the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and research funding for universities and private companies to give fresh impetus to the economy.

High-end tourism is a priority amid concerns about stretched resources in the wake of the government's projection of 70 million arrivals in 2017.

Six hotel sites in Kai Tak facing Victoria Harbour will be released gradually to the market from the end of next year, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said yesterday.

The cluster, in a concept similar to Singapore's Marina Bay waterfront development, will target visitors with high spending power by offering five-star accommodation and top-notch catering and entertainment.

That would help the city maximise economic benefits with limited resources, Tsang said.

"I appreciate that an excessive number or over-concentration of visitors may exert pressure on our society," he said. "The government should strive to ensure that there is sufficient capacity to receive visitors."

Tourism contributed 4.7 per cent of gross domestic product last year and supported the employment of 250,000 people, he noted.

In other initiatives, the Tourism Board will secure HK$45 million more to attract conventions and exhibitions to Hong Kong in the next three years, and another HK$50 million to strengthen popular events.

And at the end of this year, the daily laser show at the harbour will be enhanced by 3-D mapping technology, turning the facades of buildings into screens for dynamic video displays.

Michael Li Hon-sing, executive director of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, agreed high-end tourism was the way forward, since five-star hotels were on average about 80 per cent occupied.

Future demand for rooms in Kai Tak would depend largely on the overall development of the East Kowloon district in terms of commerce, conventions and exhibitions, Li said.

He also pointed to a Kai Tak sports complex, boasting a 50,000-seat stadium, due for completion in 2019.

"If it can provide world-class entertainment like that in Macau, it won't be hard to fill the hotel rooms," he said.

Leung Tin-cheuk, assistant professor of Chinese University's economics department, urged the government to allocate new sites for retail development, as well as hotels. The wages of salespeople from 1999 to 2012, after discounting inflation, had stagnated, but shop rents had surged 60 per cent, he said.

"Only if there is more land to open new shops will they see salary increases … and benefit from the tourism boom," he said.

On another front, the government hopes to encourage innovations in the information and technology sector, which made up 3.5 per cent of GDP in 2012.

Six universities will get annual funding of HK$24 million as seed money for students to start up research and development projects, while secondary school pupils gifted in IT can join new enrichment programmes.

Funding schemes that back research and development in private firms, now benefiting only small and medium-sized enterprises, will cover all firms, including listed companies. The cap on each project will rise from HK$6 million to HK$10 million.

A matching fund of HK$50 million will help retailers adopt IT solutions that increase productivity, such as electronic price labelling and stocktaking.