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Speech by FS at cocktail reception in Sydney (English only)

    Following is the speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr Henry Tang, at a cocktail reception by the Hong Kong Tourism Board to launch the 2006 Hong Kong Shopping Festival and Cultural/Heritage Festivals in Sydney today (May 30, Sydney time):

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good evening. I would like to thank all of you for coming to this event. It is our great pleasure to visit this beautiful city, and we are very excited to have a chance to brief you on the latest tourism developments in Hong Kong.

     Hong Kong is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region. For a number of years, our tourism revenue has been amongst the top 15 cities in the world. The total tourism expenditure related to inbound tourism in 2005 was over US$13.5 billion. Last year, our total visitor arrivals broke another new record with 23 million, up 7.1% year-on-year.

     Australia is our third largest source market from the long haul markets. Last year, we received over half a million visitors from Australia, which represented strong growth of nearly 30% year-on-year. The growth trend continued in the first quarter of 2006 with Australian visitors growing further by 11%.

     Hong Kong has long been a popular international tourist destination. But we do not and cannot rest on our laurels. Our vision is to enhance, on a continuous basis, Hong Kong's position as a premier destination for visitors in Asia and the world. That's why we have invested heavily in our tourism infrastructure, amounting to some US$4 billion in developing new tourist attractions over the past few years.

     As you all know, Hong Kong Disneyland was opened in September last year, making Hong Kong a "must-go" destination for families in the region. Asia World-Expo, which opened for business in December last year, is our largest exhibition centre providing superb facilities for business travellers to Hong Kong. Just opened a couple of weeks ago is the 60-hectare Hong Kong Wetland Park, a world-class conservation, education and eco-tourism facility located near our famous Mai Po Marshes Nature Reserve.  

     Opening soon will be a new Skyrail system on Lantau, Hong Kong's biggest and most beautiful island. To be inaugurated next month, "Ngong Ping 360" offers a 20-minute cable-car ride from Tung Chung, near the airport, to the Ngong Ping village, as well as the Giant Buddha and Po Lin Monastery. The ride will offer panoramic views of the countryside and bring visitors to our new religious-themed attraction. The Skyrail will be managed by a world-renowned Australian company, Skyrail-ITM, which is operating the cable car system in Cairns.

     With the new flagship projects I have just mentioned, Hong Kong is set to offer an exciting and captivating experience for you and your family. But let's not forget our core strength - dining and shopping. Hong Kong is indeed a paradise for shoppers and gourmets. I am pleased to announce that the 2006 Hong Kong Shopping Festival will begin just four weeks from now. The Hong Kong Tourism Board has launched a global "2006 Discover Hong Kong Year" campaign, and this two-month festival is a major highlight.

     While Hong Kong may bring you images of a vibrant and sophisticated international city, there is in fact another side of our city, with ancient Chinese heritage and traditions dating back 6,000 years. That is why I want to take this opportunity to introduce to you another highlight of the "2006 Discover Hong Kong Year" campaign - the Mid-Autumn Lantern Celebration in October. This cultural tourism event will showcase one of Hong Kong's best-loved traditional festivals for families and children; bathe our city in Chinese lantern light, colour and fun for everyone; and provide lasting memories for our visitors.

     Ladies and gentlemen, I sincerely invite you all to Hong Kong to experience our unique blend of Eastern and Western cultures, our diversity and vibrancy, as well as our first-class and value-for-money service. We welcome you all to Hong Kong and offer visa-free entry for all Australian nationals.

     Thank you very much and see you in Hong Kong soon!

Ends/Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Issued at HKT 17:49


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