Hong Kong to attract more acts such as Taylor Swift, Beyoncé: tourism minister

Hong Kong’s tourism minister has pledged to take steps to attract more international stars to boost the local economy after lawmakers questioned why the city had missed out on performances by global artists such as Taylor Swift and Beyoncé.

Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung Yun-hung told legislators on Wednesday that he would carry out discussions with local concert organisers on how they could attract more overseas artists to Hong Kong, but ultimately who came to the city would depend on the market.

Yeung was being grilled by lawmakers in a Legislative Council meeting about the city’s arrangements in attracting and facilitating internationally renowned artists to perform in Hong Kong.

“Taylor Swift held 66 concerts in the United States and she earned US$1 billion,” said Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a lawmaker and the convenor of the government’s top decision-making body.

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Beyoncé performs in Kansas City, Missouri, on October 1, 2023. Analysts cite the lack of mega stars performing in Hong Kong to the city’s late reopening after the pandemic and its lack of large venues. Photo: Parkwood

“In Asia, she went to Singapore, we lost this opportunity. This year, we have a large-scale venue being completed in Kai Tak.

“Will the government actively try to pursue similar top-level artists such as Beyoncé or top mainland Chinese artists? And do a more proactive job?”

Swift previously announced multiple dates for her 2024 world tour, including Japan and Singapore in February and March, respectively. Her decision to include only two Asian countries left fans across the continent disappointed, including in Hong Kong.

Similarly, British rock band Coldplay also skipped the city as part of their world tour, performing instead for six nights in Singapore and two nights in Bangkok.

Analysts blamed the city’s late reopening after the pandemic and its lack of large venues for its failure to attract mega stars.

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A new 50,000-capacity stadium being built in Kai Tak is expected to address the issue, but it would only be completed in phases at the end of the year.

Addressing Ip’s question, Yeung noted that international artists usually needed a local organiser to help them with arrangements in the city, adding that the government would talk to these firms and see how they could attract more of these stars to Hong Kong.

“As to who will come and who will not come, we will leave it to the market to decide,” he said.

“It is difficult for the government to proactively say that we must get a certain artist to come here before we determine if we are successful or not.”

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Kai Tak Sports Park undergoes construction. The new stadium is expected to be completed in phases at the end of the year. Photo: May Tse

Veteran producer Patrick Siu Chiu-shun agreed that the market should drive which acts perform, though he said the government ought to handle aspects such as venue availability and transport arrangements.

He said superstars with a massive draw such as Beyoncé required venues of at least 30,000 capacity to make their shows “worth it”.

While Hong Kong Stadium could fit 40,000 people, the hosting of concerts at the venue had previously raised a barrage of noise complaints, whereas other sites were too small, Siu said.

“The problem with the Kai Tak Sports Park is that we still do not know the exact day of its opening, or when it will become available,” he said, although he acknowledged the government had reached out to the industry regarding using the venue.

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“Concerts take at least a year to organise, so it may be some time before anyone starts performing there,” Siu added.

The industry veteran suggested that the government could look into other spaces while waiting for Kai Tak to be ready.

“For example, there is unused space along the Central Harbourfront,” Siu said. “If we opened those up, we could expand its current 10,000 capacity to possibly 30,000.

“Of course, I don’t know how many of those plots of land have been sold to developers, but perhaps they can negotiate something to postpone construction until the sports park is ready.”

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Lisa, Jisoo, Rosé and Jennie of Blackpink perform onstage at the 2023 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California in April 2023. Photo: AFP

Lawmaker Peter Shiu Ka-fai, who represents the retail sector, said the government should offer help to artists performing in the city, and consider giving them an award when they came to Hong Kong.

He pointed to popular Korean girl group Blackpink getting an award from some countries after their performance as an example.

Yeung said that authorities would try to cooperate with renowned musicians or athletes to help promote Hong Kong when they came to the city, adding that they would also render help to concerts and events when necessary.

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“If everyone has this intention and thinks this is a good idea, we can surely consider giving artists an award,” he said.

“However, I do not think we should give out an award whenever someone comes to Hong Kong. I actually think our awards might not be that attractive.”

The minister also defended Hong Kong’s attractiveness as a city, citing official data showing that there were about two internationally renowned musicians holding large-scale concerts with more than 10,000 spectators each month in 2023, with most holding more than one show.

Yeung added that a number of internationally well-known singers confirmed they would hold concerts in the city in 2024.

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