Following is the speech by the Secretary for Economic Development and Labour, Mr Stephen Ip, at opening ceremony of the 17th Hong Kong International Travel Expo today (September 25) (English only):
Stanley, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am glad to be here today to attend the Opening Ceremony of the 17th International Travel Expo (ITE) Hong Kong.
Over the past 16 years, ITE Hong Kong has successfully established itself as one of the leading international travel exhibitions in Asia. Hong Kong is honoured to host the ITE and we are delighted to welcome the 600 exhibitors from more than 90 countries and regions participating in the event.
The ITE was originally scheduled to have taken place in June but was postponed because of the outbreak of SARS. The good news is that SARS is now behind us. And you are here to see for yourselves that Hong Kong is recovering well and we are healthier, more competitive and with new vitality.
I am delighted to be able to say that visitor numbers have rebounded substantially over the past two months. In July, we welcomed some 1.3 million visitors, up almost 80% compared with June. The number further increased to 1.64 million in August, an increase of 27% compared with July. Hotel occupancy also climbed up from 18% in May to over 80% in August.
The prospects for further growth are good. One very important development is the decision of the Mainland authorities to allow Mainland residents to visit Hong Kong in their personal capacity. The scheme now covers eight cities in the Guangdong Province as well as Beijing and Shanghai. It will be extended to the whole of Guangdong by May 2004. All together, there will be about 100 million people who can come to visit Hong Kong under this "Individual Visits" Scheme, offering new opportunities for the tourism industry and related sectors.
Our vision is not confined to the Mainland market. It is important for Hong Kong to continue to be an international city and we must cater for the different interests of visitors from both long haul and short haul markets. Indeed, the Government together with the Hong Kong Tourism Board and local businesses have been working hard to restore international confidence in Hong Kong as Asia's top city tourist destination.
Since July 2003, we have embarked on a worldwide campaign to promote the comeback of tourism. The campaign started with the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) launching a global tourism revival campaign, targeting at the tourism trade and visitors in both long haul and short haul destinations. Phase two of HKTB's campaign is the global advertising campaign, "Hong Kong - Live it, Love it!" which was launched on 15 September.
To reinforce Hong Kong's status as the Events Capital of Asia, a series of mega events will be staged in Hong Kong in the next few months. These include a musical fireworks competition during the next two weekends, a WinterFest shopping and dining promotion from November to January next year, a brand new Harbour Lighting Show in December and the International Chinese New Year Parade in January 2004.
Other than that, Hong Kong is investing heavily in the tourism infrastructure to ensure that we provide diversity to suit the tastes of visitors from different markets. In 2005, projects like the Hong Kong Disneyland, the Cable Car on Lantau, and the Hong Kong Wetland Park will be completed. These new tourism facilities will enable us to further develop the family travel and eco-tourism market. Private sector investments in heritage tourism facilities like the heritage hotel at the former Marine Police Headquarters and the new cruise terminal in East Kowloon will add further to our tourism attractions.
Hong Kong is delighted to have this chance to host the International Travel Expo. You will see for yourself that the vibrancy, excitement and buzz that have always been associated with a visit here still remain.
I wish the ITE Hong Kong 2003 every success and all of you a very enjoyable and rewarding stay in Hong Kong.
End/ Thursday, September 25, 2003