Following is a speech by the Secretary for Economic Services, Mr Stephen Ip, at the opening ceremony of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Tourism Forum today (April 29):
Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you to Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government is most honoured to organise the APEC Tourism Forum which brings together the public and private sector to exchange views on the Tourism Charter.
I would like to thank the APEC Tourism Working Group and the APEC Tourism Charter Task Force for their tremendous efforts in drawing up the Charter. The Charter, to be adopted by APEC Tourism Ministers at the Ministerial Meeting in July, represents the collective vision, directions and future cooperation among member economies on key tourism issues affecting the APEC economies in the years ahead.
We all know very well that tourism makes a significant contribution to the prosperity of APEC economies. In Hong Kong, we welcomed some 10.7 million visitors in 1999, representing an increase of 11.5% over 1998. Hotel occupancy rose to 79% in 1999 and to 86% last month. The occupancy rate will be even higher this month because you are all here! Our total tourism receipts last year amounted to US$6.8 billion, representing about 4% of our GDP. These were achieved through concerted efforts by the tourism industry, the Government and the Hong Kong Tourist Association.
One lesson we have learnt over the past two years is that it is essential for the government and the industry to work closely together to further tourism development. This cooperation takes different shapes and forms.
For example, we have entered into an agreement with Walt Disney to build a world class theme park at Penny's Bay on Lantau Island. Hong Kong Disneyland is scheduled to open in 2005. The Government will own a majority stake in the joint venture company which will own and operate the park. We have also invited expressions of interest to build a cable car system linking Tung Chung and Ngong Ping on Lantau Island. This will provide an alternative access for visitors to our big Buddha. In that case, the Government's role will be the facilitator and the private sector is expected to finance and operate the project under a franchise.
On the events side, we have granted a loan to the Hong Kong Tourist Association to establish an International Events Fund. This provides financial assistance to promoters who wish to bring in international events. We have also recently sought private sector sponsorship together with the European business and diplomatic community to create a new signature event entitled "Hong Kong EuroChristmas". The Expo Promenade right next to this Convention and Exhibition Centre will be turned into a beautiful mid-winter European Christmas setting in the coming December. It would be quite an experience to see snow in Hong Kong! To strengthen Hong Kong's image as an international sports city, we have decided to make a bid to host the 15th Asian Games in 2006. We have set up an Asian Games Bid Committee chaired by our Chief Secretary for Administration to steer the bidding process. As an international metropolis, Hong Kong is fully capable of organising the Asian Games. Certainly if the bid is successful, the private sector will have an important role to play.
I hope the above clearly demonstrates the significant role that can be played by the private sector in tourism development, while the government must provide the right infrastructure and environment. Today's Tourism Forum provides a good opportunity for the governments and the business sector to draw up a Tourism Charter for the New Millennium. The Charter means a lot to the APEC economies as well as the tourists. I am sure you will all actively participate in the discussion to help map out a new page for tourism. To conclude, may I wish the APEC Tourism Forum every success and all of you very fruitful discussion.
End/Saturday, April 29, 2000