Greater Bay Area offers a chance for tourism success
The Hong Kong Tourism Board has rightly warned that the current recovery in the visitor market could be short-lived. But the Greater Bay Area initiative and new infrastructure linking the city to the mainland allows for the development of a regional strategy
In the world of business, one person’s gain is another’s loss. Tourism is no exception. Increasingly, travellers are venturing to more exotic places, bypassing Hong Kong and other traditional destinations. But the outlook is not as bleak as it appears. Blessed with our unique edge of “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong can achieve a lot more by cooperating with our neighbouring cities and promoting multi-destination tourism under the “Greater Bay Area” framework.
It is encouraging to hear that our visitor arrival figures in the first half of the year rose by 10 per cent to 30.6 million when compared to the same period last year. The amount of spending by overnight visitors also bounced back for the first time in four years, up to an average of HK$6,700. But there is no room for complacency. Citing the falling value of the yuan and other reasons, the Hong Kong Tourism Board has rightly warned that the recovery could be short-lived. There is further pressure arising from the uncertainties over the Sino-US trade war.
For too long we have been counting too much on mainland tourists, who account for more than three-quarters of our arrivals. Numerous as they are, the duration of their visit tends to be short, with three in five not staying overnight. Arrivals from Southeast Asian countries and new markets such as India and Vietnam have also declined recently. The need for a different strategy is obvious.
The Hong Kong-Macau partnership model provides a good reference for how much more we can achieve by working with our neighbours for greater synergy. For years, the two former colonies have complemented rather than competed against each other, with many travellers putting the two together in their itineraries. The synergy is even bigger under the Greater Bay Area initiative, a state-driven development plan to turn the 11 key cities in the southern region into an economic power house.
This is indeed a timely direction to pursue. Our long-awaited bridge linking the city with Macau and Zhuhai will be ready for use later this year. Separately, the opening of the high-speed railway linking Hong Kong to Guangzhou, scheduled for next month, will enable uninterrupted travel along the national network. It makes sense to better tap the tourism opportunities arising from the new infrastructure.
The San Francisco bay area in the US state of California is one of the world’s favourite travel destinations, attracting an estimated 25.6 million visitors to the city last year. Our Greater Bay Area arguably has even more to offer. With the right leadership and coordination, the tourism potential is enormous. It is time we moved beyond a do-it-alone approach and work out a regional strategy for greater success.