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Friday, Mar 31, 2023

Michelle Yeoh as tourism ‘ambassador’? Hong Kong ups budget to win back visitors

Michelle Yeoh as tourism ‘ambassador’? Hong Kong ups budget to win back visitors

Recent Academy Award winner among celebrities to be approached over roles promoting city, Post learns.

Hong Kong will spend an extra HK$800 million (US$102 million) this year to lure back tourists and showcase multi-destination travel in the Greater Bay Area, with authorities hoping to draw on the star power of recent Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh to promote the city, the Post has learned.

The Tourism Board projected the number of visitors would reach more than 25 million by the end of the year, which is still less than half of the 2019 level.

“As Hong Kong has fully returned to normality, the Hong Kong Tourism Board expects a gradual and orderly recovery for the city’s tourism industry,” it said on Friday.

But it admitted the recovery pace would depend on several factors, including talent recruitment across a depleted travel sector, regional competition, the global economic outlook and the strength of the Hong Kong dollar, which has weighed on visitors’ budgets.

Mapping out the strategy to promote the city, the board said authorities would allocate an extra HK$600 million in funding this year to revive and support the industry. The body would also add HK$200 million from its own reserves.

For the current financial year, the government allocated an additional HK$600 million to the board, taking its funding to HK$1.35 billion. The board also used HK$100 million from its reserves for marketing work.

Passengers take a moment for a photo at the Hong Kong International Airport.

Apart from additional funding, the Post has learned that Academy Award winner Michelle Yeoh, who made history as the first Asian woman to win an Oscar for best actress for her role in 2022’s sci-fi action film Everything Everywhere All at Once, is among the celebrities the board is approaching over tourism ambassador roles.

Yeoh mentioned Hong Kong – where she made a name for herself in the film industry – in her acceptance speech and the board hopes to persuade the Malaysian actress to take up the role.

The tourism body forecast that the number of visitors would reach 25.8 million this year – 46 per cent of the 55.9 million tourists who arrived in 2019. The city attracted a record 65.1 million visitors in 2018.

Hong Kong dropped almost all Covid-19 measures in late December, in the wake of similar moves by mainland China. The border with the mainland fully reopened last month.

Tourists wheel suitcases through Mong Kok.

That helped to bring 1.46 million visitors to the city last month, marking the first time the monthly figure surpassed 1 million since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020.

The city is hoping to win back tourists, with the government launching its “Hello Hong Kong” campaign last month, which includes a giveaway of more than 500,000 free airline tickets to visitors from short- and long-haul destinations.

Visitors to Hong Kong will also be treated to extra promotional offers, including discounted train tickets and dining coupons, in a HK$20 million (US$2.55 million) boost to the “Hong Kong Goodies” promotional drive.

The government had already announced HK$100 million worth of coupons for drinks, dining and shopping allocated to tourists under the campaign.

The board on Friday said that it would use the additional funding from the government to promote meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions (MICE) tourism.

Many events were cancelled during the pandemic due to the city’s strict travel and social-distancing restrictions, which decimated the industry.

The government hopes to promote multi-destination tourism within the Greater Bay Area.

The board said it would also work with cities in the Greater Bay Area to promote multi-destination tourism, while showcasing Hong Kong as a place where mainlanders could join group tours to connect to popular destinations such as Japan.

Around 700 trade and press representatives as well as artists, celebrities and social media influencers have been invited to visit Hong Kong in the first quarter of the year, the board added. Around 1,000 VIPs are expected on planned visits to the city.

The board would also take part in at least 22 large-scale trade shows across leisure, MICE and cruise tourism with trade partners to promote the city.


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