Take a stroll down Lan Kwai Fong. Wander past the slick bars where the price of a glass of wine would buy you a meal in Provence and the swank restaurants where the cost of a plate of pasta would support an Indonesian family for a month. Cast your eyes into the gutter. Orange peel, discarded cigarette butts, abandoned packages and assorted rubbish line the steep lane. On adjacent streets, bags of rubbish await collection. Scraps of paper blow about in the wind. Debris from a construction site blocks a footpath and spews over into the road. It is not a pretty sight. Sitting on a stool in an open-walled bar last week, I spent a contemplative hour observing the steep and narrow lane which is supposed to be one of the tourism icons of Asia. In the harsh reality of broad daylight, this is a concept slightly difficult to grasp. As I watched, problems of the disorganised hiatus that is Lan Kwai Fong were plain to see. A labourer gripped the handle of a large steel cart laden with rubbish as it rumbled with increasing speed down the sharp decline. People walking up the street had to leap adroitly out of the way. An enormous yellow Urban Services rubbish truck heaved and grunted its way down the narrow one-way road to deposit its noisome load at a rubbish dump built, incredibly, next to a sitting out area flanked by restaurants. The road surface - it had rained earlier in the day - was slick and greasy; you had to walk with care around the lanes and alleys to which the entertainment precinct has spread over the past 20 years. What a depressing mess. And what a lost opportunity. As we bemoan the decline of our tourism industry, should not we be making efforts to make Hong Kong more attractive? A good place to start would be Lan Kwai Fong. For a start, a full spring cleaning of the street would benefit the area. This is the place where 21 young people died so tragically when they slipped and tumbled in a pile of heaving bodies on New Year's Eve, 1992. That disastrous evening returns inevitably to mind as you teeter carefully down the oily road. How can Lan Kwai Fong be made more attractive? I asked the executive director of the Hong Kong Tourist Association, Amy Chan, to walk with me down Lan Kwai Fong and look at the dispiriting conditions. One of her public relations minders was swiftly back on the phone; No way! Ms Chan was preparing to address the Foreign Correspondents Club. The theme of her speech will be Putting Hong Kong Tourism Back on its Feet. She will explain what steps the HKTA is taking to try to revive tourism. Before her talk, I suggest Ms Chan takes two-minutes to look around the corner at Lan Kwai Fong. This might give her an idea of something concrete the Association could do to make our entertainment sector more attractive. After Ms Chan declined my invitation, I was joined for my stroll by Lynn Grebsted, former public relations manager of the Regent hotel, who now runs a consultancy specialising in restaurants and tourism. We chatted on the footpath, coughing amid blasts of rich diesel fumes from garbage trucks and dodging runaway carts. 'First of all, the street should be turned into a pedestrian precinct,' Ms Grebsted says. 'The garbage collection centre should be moved. We should have huge colourful pot plants in the middle of the street, like the ones in Pacific Place. There should be attractive park benches scattered among the potted palms. 'It's potentially a perfect pedestrian area. Restaurants and bars make it a fun place to hang out. But a constant flow of unsightly delivery vans and disgusting garbage trucks make their way down the street, leaving in their wake a deposit of stinking slime. 'So there's always a whiff of the unhygienic about the place. The path from Wellington Street to Lan Kwai Fong, past the garbage centre and the public toilets, is revolting. You have to hold your breath and run. And this is a sophisticated, world class business city where tourism is important?' Ms Grebsted made other suggestions; stop afternoon deliveries by truck, spruce-up surrounding lanes now resembling dreadful caverns, choked with illegal food stalls. 'Let's be the Paris of Asia, not the concrete jungle of the east,' she says. Her vision spreads further. What a joy could be made of the two promenades on either side of the harbour. Imagine them with restaurants and outdoor cafes; it could compete with any vista on the Mediterranean. Repulse Bay and Deep Water Bay could do with similar imaginative treatment, allowing cafes to spring up where concrete and car parks now dominate. 'It's upsetting,' she said, as we watched yet another leg-breaking iron cart gallop down the street. 'If we had planning and standards and rules which were obeyed, Lan Kwai Fong and other charming old streets around Central would be enormously attractive and a major tourism attraction.' Ms Grebsted points to Singapore's Clark Quay and Boat Quay, areas which were depressing slums along a filthy creek. They have been brought back to vivid life by imaginative planning and strict management. They can do it, why can't we? Cleaning up Lan Kwai Fong and other tourist areas (Ashley Road in Tsim Sha Tsui is equally grubby, and lanes leading off Nathan Road are an unhygienic nightmare) should be a tourism industry priority. There's not much fun staying in a splendid pleasure palace of a five-star hotel, even at today's reduced prices, if you have to confront filth when you go outdoors for a drink or a meal. I'm not suggesting this is the cure-all for our depressed tourism industry. I am suggesting that any little bit of effort can help, because the statistics make dismal reading. No amount of gloss and public relations hoopla can present them in anything but the most depressing light. In January last year, 920,481 people arrived at Kai Tak Airport. In January this year, that had dropped to 784,034. In the first month of 1997, our luxury hotels reported overall occupancy of 88 per cent; a year later, it had dropped to 69 per cent. Reasons are many and have been much discussed. International perceptions, regional economic malaise, the post-transition blues and expensive prices for Hong Kong holidays were all blamed. There was justification for all these explanations, but I believe there is another; after many years of being the must-see destination of Asia, we are no longer the flavour of the month.