Keeping up with the changes in the travel industry, Hong Kong is wearing its game face as it continues to lead by example. Panayiotis Markides reports.
Frequently referred to as Asia’s World City, Hong Kong certainly lives up to the title – Euromonitor recently ranked the city first in its Top 100 City Destinations publication, a report which ranks cities around the world in terms of international tourist arrivals. The city welcomed 27.8 million international tourists in 2014; nine million more tourists than second-placed London in the UK.
Broadly speaking however, Hong Kong Tourism Board’s 2015 figures revealed that domestic travellers augment the city’s visitor numbers as it recorded 59,307,596 visitors in total.
General manager, Harbour Grand Hong Kong, Benedict Chow explained to TTG the various markets that visit the Hong Kong property with a large proportion of guests coming from the mainland. “We have an international guest mix; around 50 per cent of our guests are coming from long haul markets such as the UK, Germany, Australia and the US. The rest of them are from short haul markets like mainland China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and India.”
However, Hong Kong’s success is not without challenges to overcome. Industry stakeholders experienced a downturn in the key mainland China market, a result of wanderlust Chinese travellers venturing further afield for new experiences, and falling currencies have opened up new markets for travellers from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). A spokesperson from Park Lane Hong Kong told TTG: “Tourists from mainland China will keep decreasing due to the depreciation of Japanese and Korean currency.”
Area general manager – Hong Kong of Regal Hotels and general manager of Regal Airport Hotel, John Girard agreed but preferred to look on the bright side: “We believe the impact will be lessened after a certain time span.”
Even if the until-now reliable Chinese market is slowing, the travel industry is nothing if not resilient, and visitor numbers are sourced from new markets. General manager, Harbour Plaza 8 Degrees, Christina Cheng highlighted to TTG the silver lining to the reported 5.7 per cent drop in Chinese travellers in 2015 that the property has witnessed: “The arrivals from Korea, India, Japan, Taiwan and South East Asian countries have steady growth.” Thus, despite the drop in visitors from China, various other markets are making up the difference.
EVOLUTION IS KEY
Adapting to the fluctuating dynamics of Asia’s travel sector, stakeholders are ensuring Hong Kong retains its title as the world’s most visited city in terms of international arrivals. To this end, the MENA market has become a key target for hotels, as Girard explained to TTG: “Regal Airport Hotel has put a lot emphasis on the MENA travel region and we are trying to get more traction in this region. For example, we target family room transient business so we offer family quadruple rooms and family triple rooms.”
Director of sales and marketing, The Langham, Hong Kong, David Fung also enthused on the importance of the region for the property: “We work very closely with the Hong Kong Tourism Board to promote the destination, as well as the hotel, in the MENA region. With our upcoming Langham hotel projects in Dubai and Doha, we hope to create a stronger footprint and gain further brand presence.”
Meanwhile, director of sales and marketing, New World Millennium Hong Kong Hotel, Francesco Wong additionally relayed to TTG that the MENA region is also an important market as the hotel always looks for a diverse range of feeder markets.
But a destination is nothing without the right infrastructure in place for the arrival of visitors. With this in mind, Hong Kong has made ambitious strides to ramp up its entry points. Chief among these is the newly opened Kai Tak Cruise Terminal.
Further infrastructure development includes the Hong Kong-Zuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB), an ambitious project which director of MICE, Hong Kong SkyCity Marriott Hotel, Maki Li explained to TTG is a sea crossing linking the three destinations. “The connectivity brought about by the HZMB is seen to benefit various sectors in Hong Kong.”
Li also added that apart from HZMB, the Hong Kong government has also confirmed the construction of a third runway for the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA). According to HKIA, the new runway is set for completion by 2030, and will allow the airport to handle 102 million passenger movements per year, compared to 63 million in 2014.
BREAKING WITH TRADITION
With the infrastructure in place to welcome greater numbers than ever before, the destination has realised the gains to be made in attracting travellers from a broader range of segments than it has been known for traditionally.
Chow divulged to TTG: “With the down turn of the PRC market, I think the industry is trying its best to offer more promotions for the non-PRC markets and drive more interest to visit Hong Kong again to see ‘another part’ of Hong Kong, instead of focusing on promoting a shopping paradise.”
He remarked that an example is eco-tourism, which according to Chow, is a new booming segment in Hong Kong.
“Places like Tai O, the outlying Islands, hiking trails and beaches are great add-ons to traditional tourist spots.”
Meanwhile, director of strategy and business development, Hotel ICON, Sally Osborne, ventured that art is another trend that will grace the destination’s travel industry. “Sophisticated travellers like exploring art and culture.”
In line with this Li informed TTG that HKTB has lined up more and more international art fairs and exhibitions in Hong Kong, such as Art Basel (March 24-26, 2016) and Clockenflap Hong Kong Music and Arts Festival (November 25-27, 2016), amongst many others.
A leading destination for travellers, Hong Kong is showing the world the way to success in its travel industry.