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LCQ4: Speeding up the pace of recovery of the tourism industry
     Following is a question by the Hon Elizabeth Quat and a reply by the Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism, Mr Kevin Yeung, in the Legislative Council today (January 18):
     Some members of the tourism industry have relayed that although the lifting of requirements such as post-arrival nucleic acid testing for inbound travellers by the Government last month has helped the reactivation of the tourism industry, they hope that the Government will formulate new continuous support measures to speed up the pace of recovery of the tourism industry. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) given that individual regions have imposed new entry restrictions andanti-epidemic requirements on travellers from Hong Kong recently, which has dealt a blow to the businesses of enterprises such as travel agencies and airline companies that have just shown signs of recovery, and has left individual visit travellers in a dilemma, of the specific corresponding measures put in place by the Government to strive for more convenient treatment for Hong Kong travellers;
(2) as the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) announced last month thatin order to attract travellers to visit Hong Kong again, HKTB would support relevant organizations in giving away air tickets, partner with various sectors (including restaurants, hotels, etc.) in launching various concessions and promotional activities, organize and support a number of mega events and international convention and exhibition events, as well as invite hundreds of travel trade media and key opinion leaders from around the world to visit Hong Kong, of the details and timetable of such work; and
(3) given that after undergoing the epidemic for three years, quite a numberof travel agencies, as well as local and cross-boundary coach companies and retail enterprises serving travellers, have ceased operation, and a large number of practitioners concerned have also switched to other industries, whether the Government will consider introducing new continuous support measures (including financial assistance), so as to assist the industry in recruiting and training staff afresh, comprehensively examining and repairing their vehicles, applying for licences, etc, thereby restoring and strengthening the receiving capacity of the tourism industry; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     In respect of the question raised by the Hon Elizabeth Quat, having consulted the Chief Secretary for Administration's Office, the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau and the Transport and Logistics Bureau, the consolidated reply is as follows:
(1) The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government objects to any entry measures that target Hong Kong unreasonably. Any measures that restrict entry must be based on scientific facts and actual epidemic situations respectively, and should not target any countries or regions unreasonably. The HKSAR Government has been following up with the authorities of the relevant countries and their Consulates-General in the HKSAR, requesting complete removal of discriminatory restrictions and explaining to them the latest anti-epidemic arrangements in Hong Kong, so that the relevant countries can better understand the actual situations and re-examine the measures.
     The HKSAR Government will continue to respond to the COVID-19 epidemic development under the principles of science-based and targeted anti-epidemic measures, the proper management of risks and citizen-focused facilitation, and to continue to liaise with all countries and regions with a view to facilitating smooth cross-boundary/border people flow, expanding exchange and collaboration in fields including economy, trade and humanities.
(2)  The Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau and the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) has already kick-started and stepped up promotions in various visitor source markets. Apart from highlighting Hong Kong's iconic tourism appeal and new experiences and broadcasting the positive messages of welcoming visitors, the HKTB has also been progressively inviting various groups of travel trade delegates, media organisations and key opinion leaders to Hong Kong and taking them around the city to enjoy Hong Kong's new attractions and experiences. For example, starting from mid-December last year, the HKTB has been resuming mega familiarisation trips to Hong Kong for trade members from various markets, including Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines, and invited internationally renowned celebrities to visit various attractions in town. The HKTB will initiate outreach promotions with local trade partners through active participation in large-scale global travel trade shows and events.
     The HKTB is partnering with different sectors, including dining, retail, aviation, hotel, attractions and travel agents, to plan for a series of attractive offers to visitors, including giving away special welcoming drinks and shopping vouchers, to attract visitors and encourage their spending.
     Mega events can attract more visitor consumption for Hong Kong. HKTB will organise more world-class events and support their staging in Hong Kong so as to provide visitors with new experiences and demonstrate Hong Kong's diverse appeal. These events include Arts in Hong Kong, Hong Kong Arts Festival, annual mega events like Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival, Hong Kong Marathon, Hong Kong Cyclothon, Hong Kong Sevens, Clockenflap and festive events such as the Chinese New Year Celebration Fortunes around Hong Kong which will be launched tomorrow (January 19). 
     The HKTB has successfully secured during the pandemic more than 30 large-scale international meetings, incentive travels, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) events to be staged in Hong Kong successively from 2023, including some events that will be held first-time in Hong Kong with themes covering business management, aviation, technology and medical science. Coupled with the return of a series of flagship conventions to Hong Kong, including the Jewellery Shows, Cosmoprof and Asia Fruit Logistica, there will be about 300 000 expected attendees in June and September which will be conducive to attracting high-end business travellers to revisit. Other Government departments, including the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, will also subsidise large-scale convention event for staging in Hong Kong. Leveraging Hong Kong's geographical advantage of being well connected to the Mainland and overseas cities, the Government will strengthen its support for securing more large-scale international MICE events to settle in or return to Hong Kong to attract high value-added overnight visitors to Hong Kong and re-establishing Hong Kong as the premier MICE destination in the region.
     The Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK) bought around 500 000 air tickets from airlines in 2020 and is planning to distribute these tickets to travellers for free through different promotional activities this year in order to stimulate the recovery of Hong Kong's tourism and aviation industry. The AAHK, airlines and the relevant organisations are formulating the relevant detailed arrangements for announcement in due course. The HKTB and the travel trade will fully cooperate with relevant publicity and promotion work.
     Besides, the Government plans to launch a large-scale tourism promotion in February with more details to be announced later. 
(3)  During the pandemic, the Government has been actively equipping travel agents and practitioners of the tourism industry through various schemes and arrangements as well as provision of cash subsidy in order to prepare for the restart of tourism activities and to gradually restore various supporting facilities in Hong Kong for receiving tourists, thereby assisting the trade to ramp up its capabilities. 
     In the past three years, the Government introduced measures with a commitment of over $4.48 billion to provide support to the trade. Among them, the Green Lifestyle Local Tour Incentive Scheme, the Cultural and Heritage Sites Local Tour Incentive Scheme and the Travel Agents Incentive Scheme support the travel trade in retaining operational manpower on the one hand, while incentivising the trade to develop and launch more tourism itineraries and products with cultural, heritage and green elements on the other hand, thereby complementing the policy direction of shaping tourism with cultural activities and promoting culture through tourism, while further preparing the trade to resume business in a gradual manner for the return of visitors. These subsidy schemes are still in force currently. On the other hand, the travel trade has also benefited from the two rounds of Employment Support Scheme and the waiver on related licence fees.
     Regarding the promotion of manpower training for the tourism industry, the Government has engaged the Travel Industry Authority to implement the Training Subsidy Scheme for Practitioners of the Travel Industry with a commitment of $60 million for three years starting from last November in a bid to enhance the professional standards and service quality of the trade so as to prepare for the restart of tourism activities.
     As far as the cross-boundary passenger transport trade is concerned, the Government provided subsidies under the Anti-epidemic Fund to the trade at different times from 2020 to help the trade pay for the maintenance and inspection costs of related vehicles/ferries. So far, a total of $155,000, $145,000 and $3,000,000 have been granted to each cross-boundary coach, cross-boundary hire car and cross-boundary ferry vessel respectively. In light of the progressive, orderly and comprehensive resumption of normal travel between Hong Kong and Mainland, the Government has maintained close liaison with and provided appropriate assistance to the trade, including expediting the renewal of the Hong Kong licences of the vehicles concerned; reflecting to the relevant Mainland authorities to expedite the renewal of the Mainland vehicle and driving licences; and providing free parking spaces for cross-boundary coaches in Kwai Chung and some boundary control points for the trade.
     The Government will keep in view the manpower provision in the travel trade and continue to adopt a multi-pronged approach to assist the tourism industry to recover in an orderly manner. We will closely monitor the effectiveness of various measures and maintain communication with the trade so that practitioners will return to the tourism sector in a gradual manner following the orderly recovery of tourism activities.
Ends/Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Issued at HKT 15:04
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