Many have hopped on the bandwagon since tour trails were blazed into Hong Kong’s local enclaves. Ling Ho, a pioneer, says she has more to give when it comes to showing off Hong Kong’s authentic side
Four years ago when Ho Ho Go Experience was launched to offer in-depth local cultural tours, traditional operators were sceptical about the niche product.
It did not help that founder Ling Ho was an outsider without any trade network and experience. Unlike ordinary tours, Ho’s involve a fair bit of walking – and sometimes sweating too.
Yet this was just the kind of tours that Hong Kong needed, Ho said.
Ho Ho Go Experience offers walks as well as foodie, lifestyle and private tours that bring participants closer to local life.
“From the start in 2015 I found the city’s tour product development at a crossroads and lacking high quality and personalised tours. Having enjoyed various insightful tours overseas, I decided to establish one here in Hong Kong,” she recounted.
“Tourism is a window to a city, and Hong Kong abounds in local neighborhood experiences and resources that not many tourists ever see.”
Ho’s company prides itself on employing passionate guides with in-depth local knowledge and insights.
Once, a Taiwanese girl chose a Yau Ma Tei tour but turned out to be the sole participant. Rather than follow customary business practice and cancelling the tour, Ho decided to proceed with the one-person tour.
“I later found out she had earlier joined a similar tour for free but the guide hardly answered her questions. That’s why she didn’t mind to pay and learn about the neighborhood,” Ho recounted.
“I always treat clients as friends as they come all the way from other parts of the world and are willing to spare few hours on our tours. Therefore, we must give them back something good. I hope international visitors remember such cultural characteristics even when they are back home and know that Hong Kong has a soul.”
Ho opined that new ideas tend to get copied swiftly. Rather than simply following trends, she continues to seek out local flavour and the “soul” of Hong Kong at the heart of tours, all the while adding new, unusual stops in her programmes.
When it comes to the eat and play theme, for example, she takes participants on a six-hour journey comprising a hiking route to Lai Chi Wo in Taipo with abandoned villages along the way.
For the two-hour Choi Hung Public Housing Estate, participants are brought close to the pulse of everyday life in Hong Kong, visiting areas enjoyed by locals.
Ho said: “Today, even traditional tour companies offer cultural tours. Two years ago I asked the Hong Kong Tourism Board how many tour operators there were like Ho Ho Go and the answer was two. Today, there are many agents claiming to provide such experiences.”
With more tour companies offering cultural tours, Ho says a priority is to stay away from crowds and keep tours intimate. Ho Ho Go Experience’s downtown tour takes a maximum of 15 people, and a student helper is assigned for every five participants.