Tourism sees buoyant growth
June 14, 2012
Financial Secretary John TsangThis is a special time for our city. On July 1, in just a couple of weeks' time, we shall be celebrating the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China.
It is also worth looking back on how the travel industry has changed over the past 15 years, not only here in Hong Kong but also internationally. Just 15 years ago, most of our visitors would have gone to a local travel agent to find the best packages and pick up their tickets. They would have flown into Kai Tak airport and taken holiday snaps on an old film camera.
All that was before the digital and Internet revolution that has transformed the way we source, pay for and share our travel experiences. Amid strong competition, the choice of destinations and activities also continues to expand and diversify.
In just the past decade Hong Kong has become, among other things, a Disney city, a Michelin city and a destination of choice for the meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions, or MICE, industry.
Since Hong Kong's return to China in 1997, our closer integration with the Mainland has had a dramatic impact on our tourism industry, especially since the individual visit scheme was launched in 2003.
HK welcomed 42m visitors
Among the record 42 million visitors to Hong Kong in 2011, 28 million came from the Mainland. In the first four months of this year, our tourist arrivals increased 15% compared to those of last year. Considering the global economic slowdown and the impact of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan last year, these figures are very positive.
I am confident that more people from our region and around the world will continue to visit Hong Kong for business and for pleasure. In terms of cross-boundary travel, there are several mega infrastructure projects under way, including a massive 29km bridge linking Hong Kong with Macau and Zhuhai and a high-speed rail link to the Mainland.
Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok is consistently ranked among the best and busiest in the world. In March this year, the Government approved in principle plans to build a third runway at the airport. This would help meet anticipated demand for passenger and cargo traffic up to and beyond 2030.
From airport to cruise terminal
Now back to Kai Tak, the site of our old and much loved airport up to 1998. Anyone who flew into Kai Tak would never forget the experience of landing on a runway jutting out into Victoria Harbour. From next year, Kai Tak will take on its new role as a terminal for cruise passengers. The new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal will begin operating in the middle of next year and will be able to handle the world's largest liners.
Back on dry land, our two major theme parks, Ocean Park and Hong Kong Disneyland, are scheduled to introduce new attractions next month, just in time for the summer holidays. Both parks also have exciting plans for the longer term.
Despite the difficult economic environment globally, our tourism-related business generated value added of some $75 billion in 2010. That represents 4.4% of Hong Kong's GDP.
Visitor spending up 24%
Currently around 220,000 people, or over 6% of our workforce, are employed by the travel industry. Last year, our visitors spent an estimated $263 billion. That is a year-on-year increase of 24%.
Against the positive backdrop for our travel industry, this year's Expo is expected to attract some 80,000 trade and public visitors. Here, under one very large roof, we have about 600 exhibitors from around 50 countries and regions.
As always, the Expo is moving with the times. New themes this year include weddings and honeymooning, wellness and health travel, study tours and travel photography.
I also encourage our visitors to get into the spirit of Hong Kong's 15th anniversary celebrations during your stay with us by exploring the city and enjoying the wonderful hospitality and wide range of attractions that we have to offer.
Financial Secretary John Tsang gave these remarks at the 26th International Travel Expo and the 7th MICE Travel Expo at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre.