Public debate over plans for a cultural hub in West Kowloon is set to gather pace with a pledge this week from Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen that the project will spur the rejuvenation of districts such as Yau Ma Tei and Tai Kok Tsui. Mr Tang, who also chairs the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, said that the 40-hectare arts hub would enjoy regional status, with local and international firms invited to submit designs for theatres and other venues. The public will eventually choose from three development options. The district is expected to have 15 performing arts venues developed in two phases, with 12 venues planned for completion in five to six years from when the project starts. These facilities would include a concert hall, xiqu (Chinese opera) centre, theatre and a larger performance venue. Once these proposed facilities are completed, the city's performing arts venues will account for an increase of 37 per cent over the total seating capacity of Hong Kong performing venues while public museum space will be up by 52 per cent in stages. Phase 2 will depend on the demand that is generated as Phase 1 comes into operation. In terms of museum facilities, a new cultural venue, dubbed M+ (Museum Plus), will focus on 20th-century and 21st-century visual culture. Again, this addition will increase space of public museums by 52 per cent. An estimated 2.4 million tourists would be expected annually once the core facilities of Phase 1 were operating, government officials said. Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents chairman Michael Wu said: 'There is a shortage of space and it's difficult to book venues like the Cultural Centre. This new option would enable us to create more products to pull the lucrative meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions market. 'We hope the arts hub will emphasise local character and culture such as a museum showcasing traditional Chinese opera and history.' Mr Wu said the facilities would diversify local cultural attractions by raising Hong Kong's profile as an Asian metropolis and premier tourist city. He said tourism and the local economy would benefit if attractions in West Kowloon encouraged visitors to lengthen their stay. Chris Ip Ngo-tung, district councillor for Yau Tsim Mong, where the arts hub will be located, said he hoped the project would resolve the shortage of suitable and well-equipped venues that local organisations needed. 'It's vital to involve the input of the end-users throughout the design process,' Mr Ip said.