MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): President, the tourism industry is a pillar industry of Hong Kong. Together with various tourism-related industries including catering, retail and exhibition industries, several hundred thousand frontline staff are employed. The tourism industry has supported many Hong Kong people and made great contributions to Hong Kong.
In recent years, our tourism industry has been hit hard and the number of visitors to Hong Kong has been decreasing. As the industry employs a large number of grass-roots workers, if it suffers a sustained downturn, a chain reaction will certainly be resulted, dealing a heavy blow to the retail and hotel industries, and adversely affecting the livelihood of the grass roots. Therefore, I strongly support Mr YIU Si-wing’s motion; we should draw lessons from our bitter experience and consider how our tourism industry can be revitalized.
There are many reasons attributing to the challenges faced by the tourism industry. They mainly include changes in the international environment and the internal problems of Hong Kong. Regarding the international environment, there are signs of an economic slowdown in the Mainland in recent years, and coupled with weakening exchange rates for Renminbi to Hong Kong Dollar, spending in Hong Kong has become more expensive. On the contrary, they can have higher spending power in our neighbouring tourist hot spots such as Japan. These places have also actively extended friendly hands to Chinese visitors and introduced a lot of facilitating measures to attract them. As a result, some Mainland visitors who originally intended to come to Hong Kong will visit other places instead.
The international environment is a worldwide problem which cannot be resolved by Hong Kong, but problems in Hong Kong must definitely by resolved by us. Since the introduction of the Individual Visit Scheme (“IVS”) in the Mainland in 2003, the number of Mainland visitors has increased rapidly year after year. As the industry could hardly attend to the influx of the visitors, it naturally does not have time to think about sustainable development, and the Government’s planning work has also been stagnant. Consequently, the tourism industry attaches importance to quantity rather than quality. As we are all aware, having a homogeneous source of visitors is very risky; once Mainland visitors go to other destination instead, the impacts on Hong Kong are immediately felt.
I think we should consider how our tourism industry can be improved. We should not rely solely on the Mainland market, but should try to develop more diversified visitor source markets to attract more high-spending overnight visitors to Hong Kong, attaching importance to both quality and quantity. Thus, I support Mr YIU Si-wing’s motion on comprehensively collating resources with tourism values, and based on the collation results, proposing enhancement measures.
I agree that Hong Kong needs to enhance tourism facilities and develop new strengths. Besides being an international metropolis, a gourmet and shopping paradise, Hong Kong has many natural attractions with local characteristics that can attract many foreign visitors, including the world-class Geopark, ancient walled villages with traditional cultural features, Aberdeen the fishing village and country parks with beautiful scenery, etc. In the past, we have not well utilized these readily available tourism resources, and now we should take this opportunity to vigorously develop tours with local characteristics. If the authorities do a good job on planning, carry out promotional and publicity activities in a systematic manner, and provide appropriate transport connections, I believe we should be successful.
To attract long-haul international visitors, local characteristics are vital. If foreign visitors want to experience the life in an international metropolis, they may well travel to New York and London, and they need not travel long distances to Hong Kong. Therefore, to attract international visitors, we have to promote tours in a metropolis with local characteristics, as this will be more attractive to international visitors. Moreover, the expenses on developing such tours are not too high, and the merits include stimulating the local economy, diverting visitors to reduce pressure of visitor flows in popular tourist districts; we can really achieve many things at one stroke.
I believe Hong Kong must rebuild its hospitable image. In recent years, owing to the endless pursuit of visitor growth, the busy urban areas and tourist districts were often packed with people, and coupled with the uncivilized behaviours of some visitors, resentment among local people had been aroused. At the same time, the activities against parallel traders and the act of a small minority of people to drive away Mainland visitors under the banner of localism had infuriated Mainland visitors. At present, the number of visitors to Hong Kong has decreased and conflicts between local residents and visitors have been slightly relieved. But once the number of visitors increases again, the conflicts may intensify. Hence, I hope that the Government and the industry will find ways to resolve the conflicts and rebuild the hospitable image of Hong Kong; otherwise, even if we have outstanding tourism infrastructure, local residents and visitors are still unhappy and the loss outweighs the gain.
Lastly, I think the tourism industry must be determined to combat the black sheep in the industry. At present, there are still a number of low-fare Mainland tours to Hong Kong which are actually shopping tours, with a lot of time spent on coerced shopping. The negative news has dealt a serious blow to our tourism image. The tourism industry should join hands with the Mainland authorities concerned to prohibit these low-fare shopping tours, so as to prevent visitors from being ripped off again.
President, I so submit.