Rigid rules and high threshold put off Mega Events Fund applicants, Hong Kong tourism chief says
The fund, launched in 2009 with HK$100 million, will cease to exist in March, with its money going towards more diversified tourism offerings
The government decided to axe its eight-year-old Mega Events Fund because its rigid disclosure rules and high threshold put off many potential applicants, the tourism commissioner has revealed.
The fund, established in 2009 with HK$100 million, was aimed at raising the city’s international profile by sponsoring high-profile arts, culture and sports events. It will cease to exist in March.
Speaking at a meeting of the Legislative Council’s economic development panel, Tourism Commissioner Cathy Chu Man-ling said the government wanted to support future events of “various scales” and in “different ways”, as the city sought to diversify its tourism offerings in the face of dwindling mainland shoppers.
“We have deployed a new strategy. We want to offer support at different levels. It is better than relying only on the Mega Events Fund,” she said.
The government fund has offered direct financial support for some 30 events such as the Hong Kong Golf Open and the Dragon Boat Carnival.
Despite endorsement of the fund’s contribution in raising the city’s international profile, Chu revealed that 22 events were repeats – essentially of six annual events – which will not serve the commission’s new task of catering to the specific needs of different kinds of tourists.
“Tourism policies need to be constantly adjusted to meet the needs of tourists,” she said, as visitors nowadays tended to look for events of a different scale and with local features.
Many organisers had failed to apply to the fund simply because their events were not big enough to attract “10,000 or more attendees”, one of the scheme’s criteria, she added.
Some gave up hosting events in the city because they did not want to disclose sponsors’ financial information, which was required by the fund, she said.
There will not be a single replacement for the fund after it ceases operations in March. Instead, its resources will be allocated to various schemes.
For example, HK$17 million was given to the Tourism Board to fund tourism projects with local features and “green tourism” products.
An additional HK$33 million was allocated to fund four local events – the Dine and Wine Festival, the Hong Kong Cyclothon, the Dragon Boat Carnival and the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance.
“We’d like to nurture local events and expand them into mega events for Asia” Chu said.
In this year’s budget, finance chief Paul Chan Mo-po unveiled a package worth HK$243 million to revive the city’s tourism sector, which saw visitor numbers drop 4.5 per cent last year after a decade-long business boom.
But Tourism Board chairman Peter Lam Kin-ngok still predicted a 2.2 per cent decline in visitor numbers this year, as unfavourable currency movements and the lingering adverse effect of the tightening of visa regulations for Shenzhen permanent residents would rein in the sector’s recovery.