2023-24 Budget: Tourism industry calls for sufficient financial support to revitalise businesses
Hong Kong is set to spend HK$350 million in organizing international events to attract tourists and offers fully guaranteed loans to revive tourism businesses.
The funds are primarily for promoting major tourism events, including the first-ever Hong Kong Pop Culture Festival and the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said on Wednesday.
The Hong Kong Tourism Board will spend another HK$200 million hosting more international meetings, incentive travels, conventions and exhibitions in the fields of finance, innovation and technology and medicine.
“Hong Kong has long been a world‑renowned events capital. Organisation of mega events, international conferences and exhibitions is especially crucial to drawing high value-added visitors,” Chan said.
This is the first Budget under the current-term government’s administration and after the resumption of quarantine-free travel with the Mainland and the international community.
Hello Hong Kong campaign, launched on Feb. 2, will distribute 500,000 free air tickets and various cash vouchers to attract worldwide tourists.
Li Wai-pong, the operation manager of Hong Kong Travel Bus Company said that Hong Kong may not have the capacity to cater for visitors due to the labour and resource shortage in the tourism industry.
“It will cost me around HK$90,000 each bus to repair the travel buses before operation,” said Li, “No transport operator could afford it without the financial help from the government, especially after a three-year business suspension.”
The government announced the fully guaranteed loans worthing HK$2.7 billion for transport operators and travel agents on Wednesday, to support cross-boundary passenger transport and the tourism industry.
Li said that this scheme’s effectiveness in supporting companies’ reopening is limited, since many companies can no longer afford new debts.
The deficiency of manpower also exists among travel agencies.
“Only 10% of our leaving bus drivers are willing to come back to the industry because of the insatiable income even though after the tourism barriers are lifted,” said Li.
According to a survey on travel agencies’ business status conducted by the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong in last year’s October, 76% of participating travel agencies had less than five employees, struggling to survive.
Timothy Chui, the Executive Director of the Hong Kong Tourism Association, said that the tourism industry needs financial help to regain manpower.
Perry Yiu Pak-leung, the LegCo member of the tourism functional constituency, commented on the budget on Facebook that the promotions in tourism could be attractive to visitors, but the resurgence support for the industry is insufficient.
“At present, the catering and transportation capacity of the tourism industry still needs to be restored,” Yiu said.
He added that the government should speed up the assessment and consider the use of importing labour.
The arrivals from the Mainland reached 752,351 during the ‘golden week’ of the Chinese New Year, exceeding the whole-year mainland arrivals in 2022, according to the Census and Statistics Department and Immigration Department.
The average daily arrivals from the Mainland, however, was 41,254 from Feb. 6 to Feb. 21, accounting for only 26.2% of 157,132 arrivals in February, 2018, government statistics revealed.
Chui expects it will take at least one year for Hong Kong’s tourism to reach the pre-pandemic level.
《The Young Reporter》
The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.
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