We don't need new tourist attractions, we need to keep old ones

October 12, 2015 11:14
Hong Kong has so many unique tourist attractions which are actually part of the city's daily life. Photo: HKEJ

Hong Kong visitor arrivals have been falling in recent months, and industry insiders blame the lack of new tourist attractions.

But others point out that Ayers Rock and Kata Tjuta are the only tourist attractions in the central part of Australia. Yet the area attracts more than 250,000 tourists each year despite the inconvenient transport. New attractions may be not be the real reason.

Still, people cite neighboring cities like Singapore and Macau, which have been actively building new attractions to lure tourists in recent years. How could Hong Kong sit still and do nothing?

I believe Hong Kong should not compete with others in offering something new. Instead, it should offer something good. Hong Kong should focus on its strength and the wealth of its local culture.

What are Hong Kong’s features? The Tourism Board described Hong Kong as a cosmopolitan city where east meets west and old meets new.

As we all know, Hong Kong used to be a British colony, and the majority of the population came from various mainland provinces.

The city offers a good combination of east and west in terms of architecture, culture and dining.

Cha chaan teng, or "Hong Kong-style teahouse", serves milk tea, pastries, spaghetti and sandwiches, combining various ingredients as well as cooking techniques from the east and the west.

Gage Street in Central is home to decades-old stores and close to business centers. It offers a good contrast to the bustling business district.

Other good attractions are Chinese temples like Wong Tai Sin and Po Lin Monastery, churches such as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and Sacred Heart Church, iconic skyscrapers like I.M. Pei's Bank of China Tower, and government buildings including City Hall and Court of Final Appeal.

Hong Kong offers a unique integration of tourist attractions and daily life. The 110-year-old tramway system not only gives travelers a unique riding experience but, in fact, serves as an integral part of the city's transport network, a part of life for local residents. 

The Star Ferry offers a wonderful ride for tourists who want an up-close look at one of the world’s most photographed harbors, but it basically serves as a transport system for local residents commuting between Kowloon and Hong Kong island.

I’ve visited more than 100 cities during business trips. None of them can offer such unique and diversified attractions as Hong Kong does.

Unfortunately, Hong Kong is losing many of its unique features, as a result of limited land supply.

Over the last decade, many old buildings have been demolished and replaced by commercial centers, office buildings and residential housing.

Wan Chai’s landmark Tung Tak Pawn Shop has been torn down.

The Urban Renewal Authority is accelerating the redevelopment of old districts, and the old, charming landmarks of the city, such as Lee Tung Street or Wedding Card Street, are now but memories.

These old streets have vanished as developers get caught in the frenzy of building high-rise apartments and shopping malls.

New shopping malls may not be a bad thing if they possess their own characteristics. However, most of these shopping centers have been occupied by giant brands and retail chains as skyrocketing rents force out small businesses.

As a result, most malls offer the same shops and food outlets. Independent small business owners, who could offer variety and uniqueness to the shopping experience, have become victims of spiking rental costs. They either have to cut costs and sacrifice quality or close shop.

To revitalize the tourism sector, we have to keep what makes Hong Kong special.

But some people are even pushing for the removal of trams and postboxes, which have obvious elements of the colonial era.

To save the retail industry, the government cannot just sit it out and do nothing. It can't just let small businessmen grapple with exorbitant rents, and expect them to continue attracting shoppers and tourists.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 9 under the pen name Bittermelon.

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version中文版]

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