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 March 10, 2004
HKTB Welcomes Government's Measures To Stimulate Tourism Industry

 The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) welcomes the Government's tourism-related proposals and additional funding of about HK$95 million for various tourism promotions and training activities, as announced (10 March) by The Hon Henry Tang, GBS, JP, Hong Kong's Financial Secretary, in his Budget Speech for 2004/05.

HKTB Executive Director Clara Chong said that the Board was strongly encouraged by the Government's assurance of the importance of the tourism industry, an economic pillar of Hong Kong. "The additional funding will increase the momentum of HKTB's marketing and promotional activities worldwide and reinforce our efforts in raising the service standards and training more personnel for the tourism industry," she said.

Ms Chong said that the HKTB has all along actively promoted the growth of both the short- and long-haul markets through efficient use of Government's resources so as to maintain a balanced portfolio of visitors. "Plans are already in hand to implement booster campaigns in Japan and the US. Through intensive media and publicity events, we intend to create a business platform for the travel trade and increase the speed of recovery of our worldwide markets," she said.

"Among our markets, Mainland China enjoys huge growth potential and will continue to be the leading contributor to our visitor arrivals. According to a recent World Travel Organization report, the Mainland outbound travel market is expanding at an average annual rate of 20%. The accession of China to the World Trade Organization and the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) have both contributed to the increase in the volume and frequency of business travel between Mainland and Hong Kong as well as destinations worldwide. Since mid-January this year, Mainland visitors have been able to use the renminbi credit card in Hong Kong for purchases and payment. This measure, along with the implementation of the Individual Visit Scheme since last July, have greatly encouraged visits by Mainland residents and stimulated their spending in Hong Kong," Ms Chong explained.

To tap the Mainland market, the HKTB has recently conducted a China outbound travel study to identify the major source regions and visitor segments so as to develop appropriate marketing strategies. The study has identified 24 high potential cities in the Pearl River Delta, Yangtze River Delta and Bohai Rim region. As announced by the Financial Secretary today, the Individual Visit Scheme will be extended to the entire Guangdong Province by May. This will tie in with the Board's development strategies for the Mainland.

"With the operation of our Guangzhou office, we shall strengthen our collaboration with the Mainland travel trade in the South China region. Together with our Beijing and Shanghai offices, we shall increase publicity of Hong Kong across the Mainland, reinforcing the city's position both as a primary and stopover destination among Mainland visitors," Ms Chong said.

"To enhance the dining and shopping delights we offer visitors and to live up to our reputation of being an international city, we need to improve the service quality of the tourism industry constantly so as to meet and exceed the increasingly sophisticated needs of the visitors. Quality service holds the key to our success as a premier destination. As well as supporting the Government's measures to protect intellectual property rights, the HKTB will strive to improve the industry's service standards through various initiatives such as the Quality Tourism Services (QTS) scheme, the Tourism Orientation Programme (TOP) and the Hong Kong Awards for Services -- Tourism Services Award. The Board will also continue to motivate the industry to upgrade its service quality."

In December 2003, the HKTB introduced enhancement to the QTS scheme, which included more stringent requirements and an enhanced complaint handling mechanism to further raise the industry's service standards and better protect visitors' rights. In the coming year, the Board will explore the possibility of extending the Scheme to cover other tourism sectors. In addition, the Board will implement extensive publicity locally and overseas to increase visitors' awareness of the scheme before arrival. In addition, the Board will collaborate with the QTS merchants to provide special promotional offers for visitors during mega-event periods so as to encourage their spending in Hong Kong.

Since 2002, the HKTB has implemented the Tourism Orientation Programme (TOP) to provide on-the-job training for candidates who aspire to pursue a career in the tourism field. With continued funding by the Government, the HKTB will extend the programme for another two years and further refine its content so as to produce a well-trained cadre of personnel for the tourism industry and instil a hospitable culture in Hong Kong.

The HKTB welcomes the Government's proposals of conducting a series of studies on the development of various infrastructure projects and encouraging the community to organise activities featuring individual district attractions. These infrastructure projects and activities will not only enrich visitors' experience but also enhance the long-term competitiveness of Hong Kong as a destination.

The HKTB is concerned, however, with the Government's intention to introduce a Goods and Services Tax. The Board recommends prudent consideration be taken on the possible negative impact on visitors and Hong Kong's reputation as a "shopping paradise".