Email this article
SCED's speech at The Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners gala dinner (English only)

Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Frederick Ma, at a ceremony celebrating the 10th anniversary of the establishment of HKSAR and the 23rd anniversary of The Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners today (September 14):

Mr Zheng [Kun-sheng], Dr Lui [Che-woo], distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     It gives me great pleasure to be part of this evening's event to celebrate not one but two special events - the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the 23rd anniversary of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners. I guess it's no surprise that we would get a two-for-one deal at a hotel owners' function.

     As President Hu pointed out when he was here for the official 10th Anniversary celebrations back in July, Hong Kong has endured - and overcome - some considerable challenges in the past decade. The Asian financial crisis as well as SARS outbreak all had a negative effect on the economy, but especially the tourism, hotel, retail and catering sectors.

     But, thanks to the resilience of Hong Kong people and the support of the Central People's Government, our economy has recovered well in recent years. I am particularly happy to note that all the major indicators regarding Hong Kong's inbound tourism are pointing upwards.  

     Tourists and business traveller arrivals in Hong Kong continue to rise. Visitor arrivals from January to end-July this year set a new record of 15 million, representing a growth of nearly 8% year-on-year. The Individual Visit Scheme continues to be a strong driving force. In July alone, nearly 800 000 Mainland visitors entered Hong Kong under the Scheme, an increase of more than 30% over the same month last year.  With average occupancy rates across all hotel categories in July 2007 hitting 90%, I am sure that hotel operators are very busy these days.

     Obviously, these are the good news but we should not be complacent.  Recently, most of the people I spoke to in the tourism industry are concerned about the convention and exhibition facilities development in Macao. Some commentators have also spoken about Singapore's current massive development of leisure and gaming industries.

     The opening of exhibition facilities in Macao and other regional cities in recent years has shown that Asia is gaining prominence as a MICE and tourist destination. While I believe that the presence of new competitors reflects the fact the pie is now becoming much bigger, it also underscores the need for Hong Kong to look at how we can maintain or increase our share of that pie.

     After working in the private sector for almost 30 years, I have not come across a business which is not competitive. We believe that competition is healthy, and a catalyst for improvements and progress. These new exhibition facilities will bring new momentum for further development of the convention and exhibition industry to the Pan Pearl River Delta and Pacific regions. The real question is: how can Hong Kong utilize our competitive advantages to strengthen our role as the best tourist and MICE destination in the region? In this regard, the Financial Secretary chaired a very useful brainstorming session yesterday with the representatives of Hong Kong Trade Development Council, hotel operators, travel agencies and MICE organisers. While we are now consolidating views collected, let me share with you my thoughts on Hong Kong's edge as a preferred tourist and MICE destination.

     To businessmen, as well as convention and exhibition organisers, Hong Kong means business and is the best place to put deals together. We have in place the fundamental"software" needed to make this happen: sound management expertise, high-standard professional and financial services, strong logistical support, certainty of contract underpinned by the rule of law, world class infrastructure and telecommunication facilities, good aviation connectivity, easy access to latest information on the world economy and international markets, and the flexibility and efficiency of our working population. Leveraging on our credentials as Asia's world city, we have performed well as a hospitable host of major international conventions and meetings such as the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation in December 2005, the International Telecom Union Telecom World 2006 in December last year, and most recently the Asian Aerospace International Expo and Congress 2007, to name just a few.

     For tourists and business travellers looking for sophistication, excitement and fun, Hong Kong presents a unique array of attractions and events. Hong Kong is famous for our international, cosmopolitan and dynamic outlook, coupled with our Oriental feel and heritage. We offer a diverse experience of our living culture, from shopping, dining, theme parks to entertainment. For the nature lovers, our country parks can be easily and quickly reached from the urban areas. And, thanks to the weak US Dollar, many overseas visitors will find that they get more bang for their buck in Hong Kong these days. I always love to tell my friends that you can only stay in a 3-star hotel in London for ?200, but for the same amount you can stay in one of our fantastic 5-star hotel rooms with a harbour view included.

     As you can see, it is a combination of factors that makes Hong Kong one of the top choices for tourist. We should embrace the challenges ahead in a positive and proactive manner by redoubling our efforts to make our guests feel at home and to sample the best we have to offer. The Government will continue to work closely with the industry to reaffirm our position as a centre for international conventions and exhibitions for China, and as a top city destination in Asia by moving forward in a number of strategic areas:

Convention and Exhibition Facilities

     In terms of convention and exhibition facilities, we are discussing with AsiaWorld-Expo (AWE) the early commencement of its Phase 2 development which will increase exhibition space by 50% to 100 000 square metres. In addition, the expansion of the atrium link between Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre's (HKCEC) Phases 1 and 2 is expected to be completed in 2009, boosting HKCEC's total dedicated exhibition space by 42%. We are also working closely with Hong Kong Trade Development Council to explore the feasibility of HKCEC Phase three.

World Class International and Local Events

     Apart from expanding our exhibition and convention facilities, we must fill them with events, and I mean world-class shows, convention and exhibitions, to consolidate our role as the preferred MICE destination in Asia. In this light, we will focus on both domestic and international events. Domestically, we are leveraging on the competitive edge of local industries to generate international events for global visitors. A case in point is the Business of Design Week 2007 (BODW 2007), to be hosted by the Hong Kong Design Centre in December this year. This will be an apt reflection of how we help nurture design and innovation, and instill in our industries high value-added, high intellectual property and creative content. BODW 2007 is expected to bring the world's best to Asia and attract over 10,000 participants to listen and learn, exchange ideas and network with global design business leaders.

     To attract international events to be hosted here, Hong Kong has the full support of the Central People's Government to host large-scale international events, exhibitions and conventions in our city. The most imminent example is the Equestrian Events of the Beijing Olympics to be hosted by us next year.

New Hotels and Tourist Attractions

     We understand that people coming for these events and exhibitions also need good accommodation and to have some fun after work. With your investments, there will be an addition of 13,700 new hotel rooms between now and 2009. On our side, we shall also continue to press ahead with new tourism projects, which will amount to about $10 billion and will come on stream in the next five years. These include the redevelopment of the Ocean Park, and a new cruise terminal at the former Airport runway.

     I must also remind you that the Government has released the recommendation report of the Consultative Committee on the Core Arts and Cultural Facilities of the West Kowloon Cultural District two days ago and started a three-month public engagement exercise to solicit views from the public. As you all know, this is not only an important strategic investment to promote the arts and culture and for the future of Hong Kong, but also a mega attraction to tourists who love arts and cultural performance. So I urge you all to give your views on this important project of ours in the coming months.

New Markets

     While half of our visitors come from the Mainland, we must not forget to attract tourists from other parts of the world. For example, the pace of growth of the Japanese market lags behind that of the overall visitor arrivals in the past years but since the Japanese economy is doing well recently, we may expect more visitors from this market. We should also step up our promotion in emerging markets such as the Middle East and Russia. As a matter of fact, I will lead a Hong Kong delegation to visit Moscow and St Petersburg in the week after next to promote trade and Hong Kong as a tourist destination for our Russian friends.

The Most Important Asset - People

     In my opinion, the most important factor in making our tourism industry successful today is our human resources. People is your industry's greatest asset. They are decent, educated, tolerant, hard-working, entrepreneurial, fast on their feet, highly-motivated, innovative and outward looking. Since they are good, hotel operators in the region may try to persuade them to relocate. So my advice to hotel owners and operators is - do your very best to retain your staff.

     Ladies and gentlemen, looking around this room I see owners and representatives of the scores of hotels that have added another dimension to our recipe for success as a first-class travel destination in the region and in the world. As part of the Hong Kong success story, you invest, you persist, and then you prosper. So, for all the challenges that lie ahead we shall take them head-on with our usual Hong Kong spirit and 'can-do' attitude. I wish the Federation and its members continued success in your business venture. Your success is, and will be, Hong Kong's success. Finally, please rest assured that the Government will do our very best to work with your industry in maintaining Hong Kong's competitive edge as a MICE and tourist destination.

     Thank you very much.

Ends/Friday, September 14, 2007
Issued at HKT 20:54


Print this page