Speech by FS at HKTB Reception in Los Angeles (English only) (with photo)
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     Following is the speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr John C Tsang, at the "Unlimited Appeal V Asia's World City: Hong Kong" Reception hosted by the Hong Kong Tourism Board in Los Angeles today (November 7, Los Angeles time):

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

     Good afternoon.

     It is my great pleasure to join you here in the City of Angels.

     Thank you all for attending this reception hosted by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

     I have had the pleasure of visiting LA on many occasions.  I have friends and family here and in some ways it is a home-away-from-home for me.

     On each and every visit this city never ceases to amaze me, and I am not just referring to the movie stars or the movies V of which, in the vast majority of cases, I am a great fan.

     I am captivated also by the scenery of the Californian coast, the energy of the Angelenos and the diversity of your culture.

     I have a difficult job to do here today.  I want to persuade you V and by extension your friends, your family and your business clients V to leave all this behind, just for a week or two, and come and visit us in Hong Kong.

     You may well ask, why? After all, you won't find snow capped mountains, you won't find deserts or vast areas of wilderness and seemingly never-ending roads in Hong Kong.

     But you will find more than a few familiarities.

     For one thing, we have the Hong Kong Disneyland which is a popular attraction.  There are other theme parks too, including our home-grown Ocean Park which is also very popular.  We also have spectacular beaches, challenging walking trails in our country parks and world renowned nature reserves.  Yes, not just a concrete jungle.  We have that too.

     Naturally, we have great American food and wine and more shops and restaurants than you could wish to visit on any vacation.

     All this and much more, is within easy reach because Hong Kong's territory is just a little smaller than that of the city of Los Angeles (1,302 sq/km). Yet our population of 7 million is almost twice the size of this city (3.8 million).

     You can drive from one end of Hong Kong to the other in a matter of a couple of hours.  However, most people prefer to take public transportation V it is clean, efficient, fast, inexpensive and an experience in itself.  Our historic trams are a must for most visitors.  They have been running for over a century, meandering through glassy skyscrapers and old residential districts across Hong Kong Island.  Then we have the equally popular Star Ferry which criss-crosses Victoria Harbour between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, providing some of the very best views of the city.  Elsewhere, the metro system, busses and taxis mean that you are never far from your next destination.

     Similar to LA, it is the people that make any trip special.  And as with LA, Hong Kong has been enriched by the contributions of its immigrants over many generations.

     Although we are a Chinese city, Hong Kong is home to a multitude of cultures V people from all over the world who have come to study, to work or to set up a business, and then fall in love with the city and make it their home.  This has been the story of Hong Kong's evolution.  It has produced a richly diverse culture where Eastern and Western influences come together in a unique and lively environment.

     This is reflected in every part of our lives V from architecture to entertainment to leisure activities and also in the shopping and dining experience.

     This cultural vibrancy and unlimited appeal attracts tens of millions of visitors to Hong Kong each year.  Last year, we welcomed over 36 million visitors, which is over five times our population.  We are well on course to beat last years record.  In the first nine months of this year, our visitor arrivals exceeded 30 million already.  Some 900,000 of these visitors came from the US, making this country our fourth largest source of visitors.

     In May this year, we were ranked by TripAdvisor's global users as a Top 10 destination worldwide.  Just last week, Lonely Planet placed us among the Top 10 cities to visit in 2012.  A big hint there!

     What makes Hong Kong such a popular travel destination is that there really is something for everyone all year round.

     One popular idea is to plan a trip to coincide with one of our many festivals.  There are plenty to choose from because our community marks important occasions in the Eastern and Western calendars.  This includes Christmas and New Year, Thanksgiving and Halloween, Easter, Yom Kippur, Diwali and Ramadan.  It is all part of the multicultural fabric of our community.  Of course, we celebrate Chinese customs with great enthusiasm such as Mid-Autumn Festival, National Day and the biggest of them all, Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year which falls at the end of January 2012.

     We even have popular local traditions like the annual Bun Festival which dates back more than 100 years, and the Dragon Boat Festival.

     Recently we added a Wine and Dine Festival to the list.  This year's Festival took place last month and was a great success.  The Wine and Dine Festival was launched in 2008 to celebrate two important developments.

     First, in my Budget in 2008, I eliminated all duties on wine.  This made our city the first duty-free wine port among major economies and had an immediate positive impact on the wine trade.

     Second, in 2009 the first Michelin Guide for Hong Kong and Macau was published.  So the Wine and Dine Festival celebrates our new Michelin-starred restaurants and chefs as well as the birth of Hong Kong as a major wine trading hub in Asia, including I should add for Californian wine.  In just its third year, the event has been named by ForbesTraveler.com as one of the 10 best events of its kind.  The four-day festival drew a total of 160,000 participants.  They were able to sample fine wine and great food against the spectacular backdrop of our famous cityscape.

     The festival kick-started a whole month of wine and dine events this month, with parties and outdoor carnivals and all kinds of tasty events taking place in different parts of the city.

     Of course, you can tuck into our diverse culinary delights anytime at over 11,000 restaurants across Hong Kong.

     It is also easy to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.  You can take a pleasure cruise, or visit one of the outlying islands or even explore the Hong Kong Global GeoPark.  The GeoPark was recently recognised by UNESCO because of the rock formations that date back thousands of years.

     While many of our visitors come for pleasure, others arrive on business.  They are drawn to our city by its status as a global financial centre and business hub on the doorstep of Mainland China.  This makes Hong Kong a great place to network and to do business.  And, if you believe that most business gets done on a golf course, well, we have got that covered too.

     In recent years, Hong Kong has raised its profile as a destination for Meetings, Incentive travel, Conventions and Exhibitions, otherwise known as MICE events.

     Our location in the heart of East Asia means, we are within five hours flying time of half the world's population.  And being on the south-eastern tip of China, we are right next door to the dynamic Pearl River Delta region V which is often referred to as the "factory of the world" because of its impressive manufacturing output.

     Our strategic location, together with a business friendly environment, state-of-the-art infrastructure and high quality professional services offers a two-way business platform between Mainland China and the rest of the world.  Nowadays, Hong Kong is a leading MICE destination in our region, where people, ideas and opportunities converge.  We have the facilities and the experience to stage events of all sizes, such as the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference that we successfully hosted in 2005, and the first ever ITU Telecom World Forum outside of Switzerland a year later.

     But we must not, and do not rest on our laurels.  The Government continues to invest heavily in infrastructure development, including new tourism and transport infrastructure.

     Our two flagship theme parks, Ocean Park and Hong Kong Disneyland which I mentioned earlier, are undergoing expansion and redevelopment to bring on new facilities.

     We are also building a new cruise terminal not far from the city centre.  When its first berth starts operating in 2013, it will be able to accommodate the worlds largest cruise liners.

     Looking a little further ahead, we have the massive West Kowloon Cultural District project.  Covering 40 hectares of prime harbourfront land, the cultural district will be completed in phases starting from 2015.  It will feature large-scale cultural and arts facilities, including a contemporary art museum and a major performance venue.

     And because planning is everything in a small city such as ours, the cultural district will be linked to the terminus of a new Express Rail Link.  This high-speed rail line will connect Hong Kong to the vast express rail network in Mainland China.  It will bring major cities across the boundary within easy reach of Hong Kong, promoting business and leisure travel in both directions.

     Ladies and Gentlemen, as I mentioned at the beginning of my talk, we would like you to come to Hong Kong and bring your friends, your family and your business clients.  Whether you come for business or pleasure or simply on a stop-over, there is unlimited appeal, which is why we like to call Hong Kong, Asia's world city.

     Thank you and see you in Hong Kong real soon!

Ends/Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Issued at HKT 11:55

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