‘Little’ or mega events? Hong Kong must be more aggressive, ‘make noise’ on global stage in tourism drive, industry says

‘Little’ or mega events? Hong Kong must be more aggressive, ‘make noise’ on global stage in tourism drive, industry says

Hong Kong must be more aggressive in luring stars to perform in the city, boost its appeal overseas and make noise on the global stage as it looks to show tourists it is an exciting place to visit, analysts and industry players have said.

Experts made the call for authorities to do more to strengthen the city’s attractiveness despite the government announcing on Tuesday a line-up of 15 new shows as part of more than 100 mega events being held in the second half of the year.

The new shows will include the Chinese Kungfu x Dance Carnival, I.M. Pei: Life is Architecture exhibition, Hong Kong Performing Arts Expo, Hong Kong Fashion Design Week, World Lacrosse Women’s U20 Championship, WBSC Baseball5 World Cup, tech event SmartCon, Super Terminal Expo and Exhibition for the 75th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China.

The updated list of mega events taking place between July and December features 42 large-scale conferences, 25 artistic and creative activities, 15 sports competitions, 13 functions related to finance, the economy and the innovation and technology sector, and 11 festive events.

Including those that had already taken place, more than 210 mega events would be held by the end of the year. The activities were expected to attract 1.7 million tourists, stimulate spending of HK$7.2 billion (US$92.3 million) and add HK$4.3 billion to the economy.

But business magnate Allan Zeman, chairman of the Lan Kwai Fong Group, called the new shows “little events” and said the city needed “large-scale” ones to attract international visitors.

“The 15 new events are OK. But I don’t think they’re going to bring so many people from overseas,” he said.

“Hong Kong needs some bigger, really mega events to make a noise on the international stage, including [in mainland] China … and to really get its name back so that people can see that Hong Kong is exciting.”

Zeman said the HK$30 billion Kai Tak Sports Park due to open next year, equipped with a 50,000-seat stadium, a 10,000-seat indoor centre and a 5,000-seat public sports ground on the site of the city’s former airport, could host such events.

The Kai Tak Sports Park is due to open next year, equipped with a 50,000-seat stadium, a 10,000-seat indoor centre and a 5,000-seat public sports ground. Photo: Sam Tsang

He added that inviting international stars such as American pop sensation Taylor Swift or K-pop stars to perform would be a good way to attract tourists.

“They really need to plan for it and fill [the park] up with real mega events. We need household names so that everybody knows that Hong Kong is really back,” he said.

Timothy Chui Ting-pong, executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Association, said the new events could appeal to international travellers, while regular favourites such as the Wine and Dine Festival always drew a large number of visitors.

But the government should be more aggressive in its efforts to bring in international stars, he said, pointing to the case of Singapore paying Taylor Swift to make the city state the sole Southeast Asian stop on her world tour.

“For inviting mega stars to perform in the city, it requires the government to step in and take the initiative. They need to be aggressive,” he said.

Apart from mega events, ideas such as featuring Hong Kong’s uniqueness could also attract tourism dollars, Chui said.

The potential move by authorities to preserve the sets of Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In, a hit martial arts film featuring the Kowloon Walled City, and turn them into exhibits was one good example.

“The movie has been a recent big hit in Hong Kong with screenings in other neighbouring regions,” he said.

“Japanese people have also been obsessed with the Kowloon Walled City so this display, which is linked to our history and the film, can surely attract tens of thousands of people.”

Part of the set of the film Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In. Photo: Handout

Sara Leung Fong-yuen, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Tourism Industry Employees General Union, said the city should look to host more events with international elements such as global competitions, adding that Singapore’s efforts provided valuable lessons.

“The attraction of these planned events won’t last long unless authorities hold global competitions to draw fans from around the world,” she said. “This can enhance the momentum of the events and create a lasting effect.”

Caspar Tsui Ying-wai, the executive director of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, said the latest line-up was appealing but different tourism-related sectors would need to collaborate to maximise the economic benefits.

“The problem is how to package these events with good marketing promotion. We need to work with different sectors such as catering, hotels, travel agencies and retail,” he said.

“We need to think hard about how to connect these events together and build up a synergy effect. For example, business travellers may stay longer just to enjoy our arts festivals.”

Gary Ng Cheuk-yan, a senior economist at Natixis Corporate and Investment Bank, said success would depend on the quality of the shows, not the quantity.

“The question is how these shows will be delivered – will they manage to attract tourists to come back again and again, and stay more nights instead of making a one-day trip?” he said.

Hong Kong should focus on rolling out unique and exclusive mega events to really make noise, Ng said.

“The city should learn how to impress people with surprises. The first series of shows at the Kai Tak Sports Park should be stunning to wow audiences,” he said.

Lawmaker Doreen Kong Yuk-foon said she was worried the large number of mega events would cause the city to lose its focus and create fatigue among locals and tourists.

“A city cannot do everything. We need to focus on things that we have an edge on and are beneficial to our economy. We need to develop tourism strategies,” Kong told a radio programme on Wednesday.

Kong suggested the government consider organising activities resembling Vivid Sydney, which lasts around three weeks between May and June and provides catering, promotion and conferences.

Speaking on the same radio show, Kenneth Kwong, assistant professor of marketing at the Hang Seng University of Hong Kong, said the city should focus on attracting business visitors to maintain its position as an international financial hub.

He added Hong Kong should also work on strengthening its reputation of being a paradise for shopping and food, rather than developing new areas.



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