The Hong Kong Tourism Board has splashed out more than HK$12 million (US$1.5 million) on a series of improvements and marketing activities to promote one of the city’s poorest districts as a destination for visitors looking for a unique local experience, despite its dirty streets and illegal hawking problems.
Speaking at the launch of the “Hong Kong Neighbourhoods – Sham Shui Po” campaign on Monday, board chairman Peter Lam Kin-ngok said they spent the money on promoting the district as a place for an in-depth travel experience, with its authentic local flavours and famous “human touch”.
“In Sham Shui Po, visitors can experience a fascinating mix of traditional and trendy elements, with many cool and creative shops, and affordable Michelin-starred food to enjoy,” Lam said.
“This is part of our ‘Hong Kong Neighbourhoods’ series to encourage visitors to explore Hong Kong beyond the traditional tourist areas, with the aim of expanding their footprint in Hong Kong … Nowadays, visitors look for something different and we believe Sham Shui Po could attract them with its unique local charm.”
The campaign will highlight five walking routes and 65 points of interest recommended by local personalities.
Colourful decorations, inspired by the iconic red, white and blue woven plastic bags – often carried by grass roots residents – with graphics of buttons, zippers, and nostalgic toys, have been put up at various places such as MTR stations, lamp posts along major roads and streets, footbridges and railings, with a QR code that takes visitors to the board’s website for more detailed information on the district.
Riddled with old residential flats – many of them subdivided units – and cheap and colourful wares and fabric for sale, the Kowloon district is home to large numbers of new immigrants, ethnic minorities and the elderly. Recent government figures showed Sham Shui Po, with a population of over 400,000, was among the poorest districts in Hong Kong.
The campaign is in line with the blueprint unveiled by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in her maiden policy address last year with a vision to turn the district, a traditional base for clothing and fabrics, into a fashion and design hub for budding artists.
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah admitted the district still had some deep-seated problems such as dirty streets, illegal vendors and high crime rates, but he believed the campaign could generate a lot of economic benefits.
“We believe that with more and more visitors coming to explore this district, many problems like the environmental hygiene and street management problems will improve. For other community issues, we’ll hand them over to our colleagues to handle,” he said.
Mrs Tse, owner of Po Wah Paper Craft in Fuk Wing Street, said recently there had been a rise in the number of tourists coming to her shop, which mainly sold paper offerings and paper lanterns.
“I do think the tourism campaign has helped the shops in Sham Shui Po. There has been an increase of tourists at my shop. They looked for some products showcasing traditional paper craftwork. They took them as some artistic works for collections,” she said.
On the opening of the high-speed rail link to mainland China on September 23, Peter Lam said there would be “welcoming surprises” for tourists arriving in Hong Kong.
He said he would go with the chief executive and Yau to Japan in November to promote high-speed rail tours in the Greater Bay Area, an economic zone linking Hong Kong and Macau to nine mainland cities.