Dining has always been one of Hong Kong's top traveller drawcards — and in the spirit of keeping things new, the culinary capital is plating up fresh marketing angles on food tourism and journeying with Michelin to another level of engagement.
Travel Weekly Asia speaks to Raymond Chan, Regional Director – Southeast Asia of Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) for a heart to heart talk about redefining travellers' love affair with its cuisines.
Fans of Hong Kong have always been drawn to the city’s varied dining experiences, whether it’s a Michelin-star restaurant, a dim sum restaurant or a char chan teng. How will this buzzing landscape continue to evolve and what new stories can be created for agents to promote?
Hong Kong has always had a very strong connection with global travellers, particularly those from Southeast Asia, most likely because of TVB dramas, and food-wise, it is very easy to relate to Cantonese and traditional Hong Kong cuisines. So many people enjoy local favourites such as roast goose, or nai cha (milk tea) and bo luo bao (bun) at a char chan teng (teahouse). It is not surprising that for many travellers, the first thing they do after checking into their hotels is to go to a char chan teng to have wonton noodles.
The communal table at Toolss, part cafe and part stationery shop at Sham Shui Po, Kowloon.
The Michelin Guide has journeyed with Hong Kong since 2009, and in the past 12 years, Hong Kong’s culinary presence has built up a strong reputation for diverse food offerings. We are one of the few cities to have Michelin-starred street food listings. To date, we have 69 Michelin-star rated restaurants, which is a big number for a small city.
Now, you can see in our latest marketing videos, we want to tell a different story through the eyes of Michelin-star chefs. We don’t want to focus on the restaurants, but on the neighbourhoods that these chefs have a memorable relationship with. These locales come alive when chefs share with us how they are inspired by them and the local produce they discover and use in their dishes.
This is very important to us because it shows how a Michelin-starred restaurant is not just about expensive ingredients, and that local produce too can shine. This in turn supports the local communities. It enables us to tie the food theme more closely with neighbourhood tourism and to uplift areas like Yau Ma Tei, Wong Tai Sin, Tai O and Aberdeen.
How will the F&B scene continue to thrive during these pandemic times and will restaurant owners emerge with even more innovative ideas when international borders re-open?
F&B in Hong Kong continues to thrive; even during the pandemic, there were over 2,000 new restaurant openings in the past 18 months. We have noticed a new trend in recent years where there are more modern cafés and restaurants opening in old neighbourhoods. This kind of contrast between the old and modern really aligns well with Hong Kong’s overall strategy in revitalising different neighbourhoods in each of our 19 districts.
Tai Wo Tang Cafe, formerly a traditional Chinese medicine store from the 1930s.
We started our promotions a few years ago, and we have noticed this pattern coming up in many of the neighbourhoods. This is good because it will bring in new visitors who want to discover fresh perspectives of the city.
As we prepare for the reopening of international borders, how can Hong Kong’s tourism players similarly step up and brave the bold frontier to attract new travellers?
Even as of now, we are actually still working with travel agents in different countries in Southeast Asia in order to keep engaging their customers. We have been conducting bi-monthly webinars for our travel agent partners in six countries in Southeast Asia.
Each time, we talk about different themes such as exploring old neighbourhoods or the great outdoors in order for them to prepare to market new products. Hong Kong is a very familiar destination for many, so we have to constantly look for new tourism products to market, and this helps to freshen up their mindsets.
Lastly, we have been working very hard to ensure Hong Kong returns to a state of normalcy, and we want travellers to know they will feel very safe here. So all our tourism partners should be prepared to execute a high level of safety and health protocols in order to gain the confidence of new travellers.