DestinationsHong Kong builds its appeal with new attractions

The mainland is back

The world’s most visited city, Hong Kong, topped Euromonitor International’s Top 100 City Destinations Ranking for the ninth year in 2017.

And still the city wants more. Thanks to the soaring 9.6% leap in visitor arrivals in 2018’s first quarter, the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) believes the magical round number of 60 million visitor arrivals may be within reach this year. After a handful of belt-tightening years, 2017’s near-58.5 million visitors showed a growth of 3.2%, largely thanks to the 3.9% increase in mainland China visitors to almost 44.5 million arrivals. All eyes are on the performance of the yuan and the mainland market.

Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan were 2017’s next biggest inbound markets at just over two million, 1.4 million and 1.2 million respectively. With a pleasing symmetry, Hong Konger’s prolific outbound market most often targets ‘second homes’ Taiwan, South Korea and Japan on their average of 11.4 trips a year annually, according to Skyscanner. 

Looking further than the mainland, the HKTB is partnering with online platform Have Halal, Will Travel, entering the realm of 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide, of which 42%, 290 million, live in short-haul market South-east Asia. 

The campaign offers guides, itineraries and trips that take in the city’s 70 Halal certified restaurants and many prayer facilities, all found in the HKTB produced guidebook Warna-Warni Destinasi Hong Kong.

Openings, delays and upgrades
Much anticipated, the Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel is part of the mega-project designed to rejuvenate the ailing theme park. With a delayed opening, the six -storey, 495-room property will be located at the park entrance. With a 2020 opening date, The Fullerton Ocean Park Hotel Hong Kong is destined to be the park’s second hotel with 460 rooms. 

In Kowloon’s Victoria Dockside, the Rosewood Hong Kong is promising a winter 2018 opening. Mixing 27 floors with 413 guestrooms, eight dining venues and the brand’s first urban wellness concept Asaya, there will also be 19 floors and 186 residences at the top of the 63-story tower.

While the Kerry Hotel Hong Kong’s spa is due to launch this June, The Murray, Hong Kong’s new restaurants are in soft opening with Popinjay’s opening in July, and the Novotel Century Hong Kong’s new green walled and communal table style lobby launched along with a virtual concierge.

Visitor income and attractions
The tourism expenditure for 2017 reached HK$296.7 billion (US$37.8 billion), up 1% from 2016. 
The HKTB is focusing on experiences rather than retail, with countryside hiking and cultural exploration high on the list. Surprisingly camping has been a big hit with mainland visitors, spurring a backlash against irresponsible campers leaving tonnes of trash behind. 

Hong Kong Disneyland, capitalising on its US$1.3billion expansion with last year’s addition of the Explorer’s Lodge, is adding new shows for 2018. Look out for the “We Love Mickey!”, “The Incredibles Arrive!”, “Moana: A Homecoming Celebration” and “Pixar Water Play Street Party”, plus the African-style Karibuni Marketplace. Although losses of over US$44.1 million cast a shadow over the year ending September 30, 2017, the park’s earnings grew 28% to US$116 million, visitor numbers were up 3% to 6.2 million, and revenues rose 8% to over US$651million. 

Over in Ocean Park, delays to the Tai Shue Wan Water World (likely to 2019) means it will miss the popular summer season. To cheer up guests, the park has launched their free admission Chill Out Night promotion with DJs, bands, F&B and featuring the Symbio 360° water screen show.

In Central, Madame Tussauds will welcome President Trump, complete with “infamous glowing tan and trademark hairstyle”. Visitors can join Twitter account #RealWaxDonaldTrump.

Cruising up and down
Kai Tak Cruise Terminal (KTCT) broke records again in 2017 with 190 ship calls and 732,586 revenue passengers. The first quarter of 2018 saw 190,000 cruise passengers move through KTCT and Ocean Terminal combined, the Service Excellence Award-winning KTCT handling more than 85% of the total.

Jeff Bent, managing director of Worldwide Cruise Terminals, anticipates itineraries out of Hong Kong diversifying, with the Philippines being added to the trifecta of Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam. “Like the rest of north Asia, we are expecting passenger figures for full year 2018 to drop slightly from 2017 in line with the cruise lines’ reduced deployments in East Asia.”

Eyes on land transport 
The Hong Kong Guangzhou high-speed rail has run into controversy. There’s the not-so-convenient location of the Guangzhou station and the 48-minute journey only applying to direct express trains, most stopping at up to three stations on the way. However, the link will bring 270 million people to within a four-hour train ride of the city, helping the city achieve that magical goal of 60 million arrivals.

Meanwhile, the US$12.7 billion, 55km Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge connecting the Pearl River Delta region still has no concrete opening date. 

Flying high
In 2017, 72.9 million passengers and 420,000 flights moved through HKIA. Hong Kong’s two runways are nearing full capacity with more than 1,100 flights operated daily by over 100 airlines to 220 destinations. The much-awaited third runway launches in 2022 and analysts are predicting over 100 million passengers by 2030. 

The airport’s current US$18 billion expansion project will include a new passenger concourse, sky bridge, train and baggage system linking it to the original terminal, 33 more plane parking stands and more. The redeveloped food hall opens in September 2019 and will likely feature 24/7 dining.

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