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 February 23, 2004
Hong Kong Visitors To Exceed 20 Million Mark In 2004

 Visitor arrivals would exceed the 20 million mark to reach 20.5 million in 2004, a growth of 31.8% over 2003. The forecast, made on the assumption that outbound market conditions worldwide would remain stable, represented a "cautiously optimistic" outlook for Hong Kong's tourism in 2004, Chairman of the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), the Hon Mrs. Selina Chow, GBS, OBE, JP said (23 February).

Mainland China will continue to be the leading contributor, with 11.2 million arrivals, an increase of 31.7% over 2003. Nevertheless, the HKTB remains committed to maintaining a balanced portfolio of visitors. The Board forecasts that arrivals from other markets will grow by 32.0% to 9.3 million in 2004.

Mrs. Chow said that while the global economic recovery had created a positive macro-environment, the market remained volatile in the short-term due to concerns about SARS and avian flu. HKTB's key focuses for 2004 would include growing high-potential and high-yield market segments; further developing the Mainland market and capitalising on the Individual Visit Scheme; enhancing visitors' experience through mega-events; proactively building support for the upcoming tourism infrastructure; and strengthening co-operation with various sectors of the community in providing visitors with greater quality assurances, thereby reinforcing Hong Kong's position as the world's premier destination.

Executive Director Ms. Clara Chong remarked that tourism had made a bright start to 2004, with visitor arrivals reaching 1.75 million in January, an increase of 13.1% over the figure of January 2003. "Despite the encouraging figure, there remains volatility in the market with the avian flu spreading across Asia and lately, the United States and Canada since February. This will possibly affect the travel sentiments of visitors from both short- and long-haul markets in the short term. As such, we cautiously forecast that complete recovery across our source markets will not occur until the end of 2004," she said.

"In view of the volatile market conditions, we will incorporate responsiveness, flexibility and contingency into our worldwide marketing campaigns. Our key market strategies for 2004 will cover the areas of market focus, segment focus, marketing platform and experience management," Ms. Chong added.

On the market focus, the HKTB will sustain its efforts to maintain a balanced portfolio of visitors. The Board will place high priority on the Mainland given its huge growth potential, reinforcing Hong Kong's position both as a primary and stopover destination among Mainland visitors. At the same time, however, the Board will focus on reviving arrivals from other markets and restoring their growth momentum.

As regards the specific visitor segment focus, Ms. Chong said that the HKTB would continue to grow high-potential and high-yield segments, namely business travellers, the conventions, exhibitions and corporate events sector and cruise visitors. "About 30% of our visitors are business travellers and their average spending is higher than that of leisure visitors," she explained. "Capitalising on the increased business exchanges between the Mainland and Hong Kong as a result of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), the Board will encourage business travellers to extend their stay and travel with their spouse and family, thus stimulating their activities and spending while in Hong Kong."

Another important segment will be family travellers. Together with the Government, the travel trade and related sectors, the HKTB will continue to establish Hong Kong as a family destination, paving the way for the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland in 2005 and meeting the needs of the family travellers.

To promote Hong Kong to all these target markets and visitor segments, the HKTB will continue to build on the four product pillars of shopping; dining; the unique mix of heritage, culture and festivals; and the contrasting splendours of city, harbour and green by investing in the "Hong Kong -- Live it, Love it!" global advertising campaign. The Board will also strengthen its co-operation with the Government, the travel trade and the business community to develop and package new products so as to enhance Hong Kong's appeal as an international city.

On experience management, given that visitors who participated in the mega-events have a high level of satisfaction, with an average rating of 8.4 out of a scale of 10, the HKTB will capitalise on last year's success and continue to organise a diverse array of mega-events in 2004. These include the ever-popular Hong Kong Winterfest and Chinese New Year Parade. Also, taking into account the latest global trend of individual travel and the extension of the Individual Visit Scheme in several Mainland cities, the HKTB will develop new information dissemination channels to provide easier access to information. Through the Quality Tourism Services (QTS) Scheme, it will continue to improve the industry's service standards and ethical practices so as to offer visitors greater quality assurances.

As announced earlier, the tourism industry staged a V-shaped rebound after going through unprecedented challenges brought by the SARS outbreak in 2003. Yearly arrivals totalled 15.54 million, a modest 6.2% down on the previous year's record figure. When compared with regional destinations that experienced double-digit decreases as a result of the SARS outbreak, Hong Kong's revival was truly remarkable. "With unprecedented unity and splendid team efforts between the Government, the travel industry and the community, we have overcome some unseen challenges in 2003. We have proved that by working as a team, nothing is insurmountable," Mrs. Chow said.

Echoing Mrs. Chow's views, Ms. Chong said that the HKTB would be ready to take on new challenges as a team. "With our consolidated knowledge and experience and excellent teamwork, we can respond to customers' increasingly sophisticated needs and changing trends better and more quickly. We shall overcome new challenges and become the world's premier destination," she concluded.