The need to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive tourism market is universal. The emergence of new attractions and destinations means travellers are spoiled for choice. Inevitably, places that go an extra mile to offer something out-of-the-ordinary will win, while those staying still or without any special appeal will lose out.
With some 48 million visitors passing through our door last year, the city seems to be doing quite well. The magnificent Victoria Harbour and The Peak continue to draw millions from around the world. Those looking for fun will find their reward at Disneyland and Ocean Park. There are restaurants to suit every taste, shops for different customers, hotels for all budgets. We are, arguably, one of the most attractive cities in the region - at least for first-time visitors.
Travellers do return to their favourite places from time to time, but, as the saying goes, "been there, done that". Most tourists are unlikely to visit the same place twice unless there are new attractions and experiences. Credit goes to the Tourism Board for offering something less conventional. For instance, there is a guided tour showing how locals ward off evils and enemies under a flyover. Those intrigued by the city's bee-hive living environment can join a visit to a public housing estate in southern Hong Kong Island. For foodies, there is nothing better than to sample some of the local specialities, such as shrimp roe noodles, steamed sugar pudding and salty eggs, and see for themselves how they are prepared.
To locals, public housing, Chinese voodoo and street snacks are nothing special. But that does not mean tourists will not find them interesting. They are just another part of the city to be discovered. With some packaging and promotion, they become novelties. As the global tourism market becomes increasingly competitive, we cannot rest on our laurels as a shopping and gourmet paradise. Thankfully, there is more to our city than just theme parks and shopping malls. More innovative ideas are needed to keep Hong Kong on the traveller's map.