Letters to the Editor, April 26, 2015

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 April, 2015, 11:00pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 April, 2015, 11:00pm

Friendliness to visitors goes a long way

The numbers are out. Tourist arrivals have dipped. Both push and pull factors have been given to explain why. It begs the question: just how are we treating our tourists? I speak from experience.

Firstly, the use of language. When I speak in Cantonese, I get treated like a local. When I speak in Putonghua, I get that "You are going to buy in bulk anyway, so why serve?" look. When I speak in English, I get passed around like a plague. Are we to be reduced to sign language to be understood?

Whatever happened to being the gateway between the East and West that this land is - or was - proud of? What surprised me is that older service staff have a better grasp of English and proffer warmer service than their younger counterparts. Has this got anything to do with what they learned in schools?

Secondly, we are missing the warm touches in the way we engage with visitors from faraway land. I understand the people of this land are a hectic lot. But treating visitors like they are getting in your way is not the way to go. What about eye contact, a "hello", a "thank you", a smile and offers of help? These impressions stay with visitors and they make or break our rice bowls.

With cities becoming more alike than different, warmth and friendliness sell. There should be a concerted campaign to imbue in frontline staff the willingness to serve with pride.

Thirdly, what does this land offer that keeps the till ringing and tourists coming back for more? Strange as it may seem, I find many places expend great efforts to throw out the old and rebuild themselves into mirror images of each other, as if to achieve world-class status, we all need a London Eye, the topless double-decker buses, theme parks and night skylines punctuated with skyscrapers. The old, shabby alleyways and night hawkers of delectable food have all given way to swanky malls of epic proportions. The place has lost its character and flavour.

Ultimately, it is about what unique experience we offer our tourists and the largest bang they get for their money. We love to consult so let us ask visitors what they want. Let us not be so hasty to pull down all that have made us unique.

Lee Teck Chuan, Tsim Sha Tsui


City has much more than malls to offer

Those in our tourism industry often say that we should develop more tourism spots, and they are thinking of projects like Disneyland or Ocean Park. But in fact, Hong Kong has got more tourist attractions than they think, and some of them are unique to Hong Kong.

I recently prepared a list for my overseas friends on what to see or do in Hong Kong, and I have come up with more than 50 items. Here are some examples:

Bamboo scaffolding - see how Hong Kong "spidermen" work on high-rise buildings using such scaffolding.

Double-decker buses - ride on the top deck and feel the trees hit the bus roof as you go along the steep and winding road.

Stilt houses and dolphin watching in Tai O, Lantau - see a protected species at rock-bottom prices.

Go to our Geoparks and see how old Hong Kong is.

Talk a walk in our country parks, which take up 40 per cent of the land mass here.

Hong Kong has more than just commercial and artificial gadgets to see, and more than just shopping.

Dennis Li, Mid-Levels


Enough of complaining Hongkongers

Hong Kong is a metropolis where people are free to express their opinions. If they have any dissatisfaction, they can lodge complaints with the relevant bodies to express their discontent. Yet, in recent years, the grievance mechanism seems to have been abused, with people making an increasing number of unreasonable complaints. I'm writing hoping a change of attitude can fix this situation.

Many of these complaints demand disproportionate compensation for trivial matters. For example, last year, a hotel worker in Macau posted an article on Facebook which noted that Hong Kong people were quick to yell to see the manager, instead of first trying to find other ways to solve the problem. One couple grumbled that the view of the hotel room wasn't good and the air con wasn't cool enough, and asked for maintenance. They even insisted the hotel arrange a free shuttle bus to go to the urban areas as compensation. To avoid further trouble, the manager gave them free breakfasts as compensation.

The complainants might think they are entitled to the best services because they have paid for them, but when they are dissatisfied, they should not try to take advantage with preposterous demands that have nothing to do with the service providers.

Although customers have the right to complain, unjustifiable or unreasonable complaints should never be encouraged. I hope Hong Kong people can rethink their attitude towards complaining.

Cherry Wong, Yau Tong


Don't blame fast food for obesity

Fast food restaurants like McDonald's are ubiquitous in Hong Kong, and many of them are blamed for making us obese. I don't think this is fair.

Rarely do people in Hong Kong have time for exercise, owing to their busy work and the fast pace of life. We will grow fat if we eat a lot and exercise little. If people exercise regularly, they are less likely to become overweight.

For many people who spend long hours at work, fast food may be the easiest choice at meal times. But, still, people should have some self-control and try to make wise choices. We can bring homemade lunch to work. The problem of obesity has become more serious today, and there are many factors involved. People should take responsibility for themselves.

Ng Ka Ki, Tsing Yi


It takes time to know a culture and language

Being a second language learner in English in Hong Kong, I feel lucky as everything is bilingual. However, depending too much on translation is one of the problems. Having a relaxing afternoon with friends drinking tea and enjoying some cakes in a five-star hotel is called "high tea" among locals. However, in other parts of the world, it is "afternoon tea".

There is no formula to learning, but understanding how the language is used in daily life is an important part of the process. Everyone knows the greetings "happy birthday" and "Merry Christmas". While "happy" and "merry" mean almost the same, would one swap them by saying "merry birthday"? Usage matters.

Learning a language and the culture takes a very long time. English lessons and textbooks are only the start.

Eva Pang, Tseung Kwan O