|By Boonsong Kositchotethana, Bangkok Post, Thailand|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 11, 2005 - Having invested more than US$4 billion over the past five years in a series of new tourist attractions including the region's first Disneyland, Hong Kong is working to ensure the investments pay off in terms of more visitors.
The territory has set its sights on attracting at least 50 million visitors who would contribute more than HK$210 billion (1.05 trillion baht) to its economy in 2005 and 2006 as part of the "Discover Hong Kong Year" campaign.
Buoyed by the recent trend, Hong Kong tourism officials recently revised upward the number of targeted arrivals for this year to 23.41 million from 22.9 million, with forecast tourism expenditures of HK$ 97.8 billion.
Next year it is forecasting 27.14 million arrivals and spending of HK$114.7 billion.
The projections are a far cry from 2003 when Hong Hong's tourism industry was devastated by the Sars outbreak, causing arrivals to grow by just 6.2 percent to 15.5 million, and prompting a concerted effort to revive tourism growth. Its visitor arrivals in 2004 reached a record of 21.8 million, signifying a full recovery.
The World Tourism Organisation forecasts that by 2020 Hong Kong will rank as the world's fifth most popular tourism destination, hosting 56 million visitors in a single year.
Clara Chong, executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), said the territory's appeal was enhanced by four newly created magnets -- Hong Kong Disneyland; Hong Kong Wet Land, a 60-hectare nature conservation site; Ngong Ping 360, featuring a 5.7-kilometre cable-car journey to the world's largest seated outdoor bronze Buddha statue; and Asia World-Expo, a 70,000-square-metre international exhibition centre alongside Hong Kong international airport.
Hong Kong has begun to heavily promote new offerings with extra funding of HK$470 million allocated to the HKTB over its usual budget for the 2005-06 period. The HKTB's normal budget this year is about HK$400 million.
About 70 percent of the extra funds would be used for marketing overseas, according to Mrs Chong.
Hong Kong Finance Secretary Henry Tang on Monday opened the first overseas presentation of Discover Hong Kong Magic in Thailand, one of several "high-growth" regional markets courted by the HKTB.
According to Mrs Chong, the HKTB aims to ride on the healthy growth in arrivals from Thailand last year when the number jumped 71 percent to 317,000.
This year, the HKTB projects 340,975 arrivals from Thailand, up 7.6 percent from 2004, and a further increase the numbers in 2006 when the new tourism offerings are fully operational. Arrivals from Thailand in the first quarter of this year were 38 percent higher than in the same period last year.
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