Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Where's the Tourists?

Mickey Mouse must be wondering where all the tourists went...
The Hong Kong government is desperate for tourists.

This is even more evident now with Hong Kong Disneyland (of which the Hong Kong government is a main shareholder) reporting its first loss since 2011, with expectations that visitor numbers will drop even further this year.

This is unfortunately coinciding with the amusement park celebrating its 10th anniversary, as it lost HK$148 million last year, compared to HK$332 million in profits a year earlier.

The park has seen a drop of 23 percent fewer mainland visitors.

"This year will be difficult," said Andrew Kam, Hong Kong Disneyland's managing director. Total visitor numbers to the park were down 9.3 percent to 6.8 million in the fiscal year ending in October 2015 compared to the year before.

Ocean Park is also seeing its profits cut in half. For the fiscal year that ended last June, profit was down 53 percent at HK$45.2 million, and revenue fell slightly to HK$1.97 billion, a drop of HK$600,000 from the previous year.

Competitor Ocean Park has also seen a drop in visitors
Failed chief executive candidate Henry Tang Ying-yen believes the best thing to do is to open the floodgates to allow more mainlanders in Hong Kong. Is this really the solution? This will only get more localists enraged, but really, all those who have been to Disneyland and Ocean Park aren't interested in going again.

And besides, they are probably waiting for Shanghai's Disneyland to open in June, with domestic travel there much cheaper.

Who are we kidding?

Kam is trying to brush off the impending challenge, saying "once you've established your own brands, I think you don't need to worry about the competition", adding there was enough regional demand for both parks.

Really? Surely people will be more interested in Shanghai, as it's brand new and three times bigger.

This is a case of Hong Kong's authorities putting all of its eggs in one basket.

Depending on mainland tourists was naive and hardly prudent. The Hong Kong Tourism Board should have been promoting the city to every other viable market just as aggressively as the Chinese one.

Meanwhile dai pai dongs are a dying breed in the city
And now with the shocking violence that happened last Monday, who wants to go to Hong Kong? Wasn't it supposed to be a safe city?

The HKTB has a lot of work to do to repair the city's image, and also persuade the government that if it wants to bring more tourists in, Hong Kong needs to preserve its cultural heritage and that means street food.

Food is one of the best ways for people to understand a culture and what Hong Kong has to offer cannot be found anywhere else. To kill street food by putting so many restrictions on hawker licenses and dai pai dongs, is killing the city's culture and potential tourism draw.

Hong Kong people are so passionate about their food, why not make this a vital cultural industry? Originally these hawker foods existed to sustain a living, but some are very good and deserve to be encouraged to continue.

Tourists visit Taiwan and Singapore for the food, why not Hong Kong?

It's not all about shopping... and besides, tourism now is about memorable experiences.

Or did the HKTB not get that memo?


  1. I just spent a day with three relatives from Singapore. The daughter and the parents have very different personalities, etc. -- but all were united in loving food... and wanting to eat food that Hong Kong is good at: i.e., we opted for dim sum for lunch, "silk stocking" tea and cha chaan teng fare at Lan Fong Yuen for mid afternoon snacks, and then hot pot for dinner.

    Why can't the Hong Kong authorities appreciate local food the way that foreigners can and do? Are they too busy being too pro-Beijing on the one hand and bourgeois on the other?!

    1. Hi YTSL -- You may be right re: Hong Kong authorities...

  2. A little late to this one but if you want great street food, you are better served in Penang, Bangkok, Singapore, Taiwan, Guangzhou, etc.

    All the HK style cha chaan tengs and dai pai dongs serve pretty much the same food and much of it is very low quality with pre-packaged noodles, frozen fishballs/meatballs, and few vegetables. There are a few gems in the city but a lot of food in HK is pretty disappointing. If you compare the quality of ingredients at an average cha chaan teng to an average Taipei noodle stall, the difference is night and day. In Penang, many hawker stalls make their own noodles and the locals all know which ones are of higher quality. In Hong Kong, it seems a lot of people can't tell the difference between Cafe de Coral and real food.