27 March 2019
Dragon boat races are the main fare of the three-day bash. Photo: Hong Kong Tourism Board
Dragon boat races are the main fare of the three-day bash. Photo: Hong Kong Tourism Board

Why HK dragon boat races are rowing to a different drumbeat

Hong Kong’s biggest summer excitement is a lot of things to a lot of people, but it’s mostly down to three things — boats, beers and bash.

This year, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival kicks off on June 6 and for the next couple of days, locals and visitors alike have an excuse to party.

As in years past, the main draw is a slew of dragon boat races in parts of the city in celebration of a centuries-old event that does not fail to get a fresh spin each year.

This time, it’s coming from the fact that organizers are sparing no expense to ensure its success. If you can’t get a good party for HK$18 million (US$2.31 million) — the estimated spending for the three-day bash by commercial sponsors, donors and the government — it’s probably not worth having.

Mega Events Fund, a special-purpose vehicle established by the government in 2009 to “help local non-profit-making organisations to host more attractive arts, cultural and sports events in Hong Kong”, is throwing in HK$5.5 million. The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) is adding another HK$3 million and San Miguel Corp., the Philippine conglomerate, is supplying the beer and footing its part of the bill.

And for the first time, the HKTB has hired an independent company to see if it’s getting its money’s worth. The company’s mandate includes a visitor headcount and a guest satisfaction survey. It will also report on how long visitors have stayed in those three days.

All this, however, has nothing to do with recent accusations that Mega Events Fund has improperly used public money, Apple Daily reported Thursday, citing HKTB chairman Peter Lam.

Hong Kong needs more mega events to attract more tourists and it’s showing its commitment by putting its money where its mouth is, the report said.

Still, the event has its fair share of critics. 

Economist Andy Kwan said the HKTB should closely monitor the event and cancel it if it does not bring economic benefits to Hong Kong, according to Sky Post.

Lam Cheuk-ting, chief executive of the Democratic Party and a former graft investigator, said it might be a better idea to let the private sector handle the event to avoid conflict of interest.

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Things come to a bubble on the beer side of the merrymaking. Photo: Hong Kong Tourism Board

Again, the carnival ends in the same pulsating way it starts. Photo: Hong Kong Tourism Board

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