Hong Kong as a Tourism Hub
In year 1997, Hong Kong, the once part of Chinese Empire then became British colony, changed its status again to Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. The implications of this unique heritage, its transition and cultural identity have shaped Hong Kong into current tourism hub (Henderson, 2010). A survey conducted by Yuwa (2013) shows that Hong Kong ranked 9th in the top 20 global tourist’ destinations. However, competition has been heated up around the region lately. More countries including China (mainly Shenzhen and Zhuhai), Taiwan, and Southeast Asia countries (particularly Singapore and Thailand) are joining the league to attract high-net-worth travelers. The following paragraphs are about to explain both the competitiveness of Hong Kong and threats that may challenge its position as regional tourism hub.
Well-connected ground transportation, world renowned airport and sheltered natural harbor contribute to the success of Hong Kong tourism. Hong Kong’s home carrier Cathay Pacific success in attracting millions of tourists to Hong Kong also attracts major airlines to expand flight network to Hong Kong International Airport. The airport is subsequently honored as one of the fully utilized, most efficient and competitive airport in the world (Strategic Access Limited, n.d.). Tam (1997) claims that the advanced infrastructure projects improving transport network, such as the Hong Kong International (Chep Lap Kok) Airport and the number three highway to north New Territories, could raise the competitiveness of Hong Kong in tourism too. Besides, the advanced and modern telecommunication system as well as the prestige of Hong Kong as International Financial Centre further enhances Hong Kong as preferred location for business travel and conferences. However, these outstanding infrastructures do come at high cost, which are then partly contributing to the high living expenses in Hong Kong. The high living cost will render its competitiveness in the long run (Tam, 1997).
Besides infrastructure, advantageous geographical position has made Hong Kong an economic and financial center in Asia. Separated by the Pearl River estuary, Hong Kong is facing Zhuhai and Macau by overlooking the vast South China Sea (The Hong Kong Tourism Board, 2013). This unique geographical location brings massive influx of tourists, especially those from mainland China. This advantage is, however, impeded by frequent visit tropical storms and typhoons on yearly basis reducing Hong Kong competitiveness. Aside of geographical location, the mountainous landscapes around Hong Kong are another tourist attraction too. According to Wang (2012), which Martin points out that Hong Kong has rich ecological resources and attractive natural scenery. To certain extend, Hong Kong tourism administration had already put in great effort to promote eco-tourism including mountainous trekking and hiking activities. Regardless of the effort by tourism board, some would still argue that Hong Kong indeed does not have enough natural scenery to sustain its attractiveness as compared to its rivals. This is supported by the fact that majority of the tourists who visit Hong Kong would rather opt for shopping instead of nature sightseeing.
The recent Hong Kong Monetary Authority annual report (2013) shows that Hong Kong external exchange value is classified as stable. Combined with free trade zone status and attractive tax free policy, Hong Kong is able to remain competitive and maintain its reputation as shopping heaven. Hong Kong economy has actually benefited from the increase of tourists (Naughton, 1997). As the side effect of economy growth, the rapid development in the limited land space has raised concerns over waste management, health, environmental issues and risk of disease outbreak. The city would require effective drainage system and waste management in order to prevent hygiene problems which could potentially lead to outbreak of disease. Norrby (1995) argues that Hong Kong hygienic problems are sometimes unsatisfactory due to the high density of population. For the same reason, emergency response including pandemic control and disease outbreak management is essential for good control and containment of any outbreak similar to the year 2003 SARS case. In term of air pollution, Wong, Tam and Yu (2002) claim that the problem in Hong Kong is getting serious in decades. Blurred grey sky may affect the scenery of Hong Kong in the future. These negative consequences, which may discourage tourists from visiting Hong Kong, shall be properly handled or solved.
Though Hong Kong has its uniqueness and specialties to remain leader in regional tourism hub, there are weaknesses which can be challenged by rivals around the region. In order to maintain its competitiveness, Hong Kong tourism board may consider linking with its rivals especially the nearby cities, for example Macau and Zhuhai. Typically, regional cooperation among countries and cities will attract more tourists thus creating a win-win situation. This kind of partnership could be complement one another’s weaknesses thereby provide the best supports and services for tourists. Lastly, Hong Kong could also consider diversifying its tourism industry in order to attract other types of travelers. Eco-tourism, arts and cultural events as well as international sports events and tournaments are good supplements to the problem due to lack of natural attractions, which could attract and diversify tourists.