Hongkongers are being urged to rediscover the city’s hidden gems as part of a tourism drive officials hope will boost the struggling travel industry.
More than 50 attractions and shops in Yau Ma Tei, Jordan and the West Kowloon Cultural District are taking part in a neighbourhoods campaign, featuring traditional crafts, arts and culture, and authentic cuisine, that was launched by the city’s Tourism Board on Thursday.
Dane Cheng Ting-yat, the board’s executive director, urged businesses in the industry to organise in-depth tours for local residents as preparation for the return of tourists.
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“We have chosen to launch this large-scale promotion before borders reopen because we want residents to savour the experience first, and discover hidden gems in their community,” he said.
The campaign, Cheng said, could highlight Hong Kong’s new arts and culture-related travel opportunities, which would attract visitors from around the world when the borders reopened.
Tourism has suffered over the past two years, firstly from the anti-government protests in 2019, and then from the global lockdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
The industry’s future remains uncertain, despite the expected launch of the “Come2HK” scheme on September 15. The scheme, which was halted in mid-May, will allow up to 2,000 non-residents a day from Guangdong province and Macau to enter the city without having to quarantine.
Tourist arrivals in Hong Kong plunged 98.8 per cent to 42,415 people in the first seven months of this year, compared with the same period in 2020.
Liu Ma Kee in Jordan, which has been producing fermented bean curd and other traditional sauces in the same location since the 1920s, is one of the businesses to be highlighted as part of the campaign.
Standing in front of a mountain of sauce jars, Jay Liu Fong-yip, who is in his 30s and is the fourth generation of his family to run the shop, said at the beginning of the pandemic sales had improved because restaurants were closed.
“People had ordered more than usual to stockpile the sauces,” he said. “But after that, our sales dropped.”
He said the sauces used to be a popular souvenir for tourists before the pandemic, adding that his business had invented new product types, such as the “fish ball sauce” and “fermented bean curd carbonara sauce”, to attract younger local customers.
Liu said he hoped the tourism campaign would attract residents who were not aware of its existence.
“I hope this can make everyone happier and overcome the negative emotions they had during the pandemic,” he said. “This project may jog their memories and they may remember that Hong Kong still has a lot of attractions and eateries.”
Cheung Shing Fans Factory, which opened in 1958, is the only remaining sandalwood fan store in Hong Kong. It also produces incense.
Second-generation owner Lowell Lo Yip-keung, 58, said the pandemic had greatly reduced the number of tourists from mainland China, who mostly bought sandalwood bracelets, accounting for 50 per cent of their sales.
Lo wished more people would be introduced to his incense and fans as they walked through his Jordan neighbourhood.
“They should learn more about us, as the naming of Hong Kong was related to the fragrance of incense and sandalwood,” he said.
“Young people are very interested in the stories of old Hong Kong and they also learn about Chinese culture.”
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