New year, new change-makers for Hong Kong’s travel trade

Tung (middle) commemorated his retirement with friends last month

Hong Kong’s tourism trade ushered in 2018 with new leaders at the helm of key associations and councils, eager to propel their organisations forward amid changing forces in the industry.

Last month, Joseph Tung retired from the Travel Industry Council (TIC) after a 20-year tenure and handed the reins to his deputy, Alice Chan.

Tung (middle) commemorated his retirement with friends from the industry last month

Chan said the key challenge for TIC going ahead is preparing to transform. It now plays the dual role of trade association and self-regulatory body of travel agents, but is expecting to relinquish the latter once the trade’s new regulatory body, the Travel Industry Authority, is set up.

“To prepare for the upcoming changes, TIC has been allocating more resources to assist traders and has already embarked on a number of funding schemes and projects to help enhance members’ competitiveness by promoting the use of information and computer technology; training of travel agency personnel; and collaboration with mainland and overseas tourism organisations,” she shared.

“Indeed, the workload of the executive office has grown tremendously in the past few years and is bound to expand further in the next few years. We are looking forward to obtaining additional manpower and developing an even more efficient team.”

At the Hong Kong Hotel Association (HKHA), Patrick Kwok, formerly general manager for business development of the Hong Kong Tourism Board for over 34 years, in late August replaced veteran James Lu as executive director.

A series of proactive changes has been planned for roll-out, such as a website revamp to enable better communication with members and consumers, new initiatives to enhance membership benefits, and increased collaboration with stakeholders and partners to uplift HKHA’s profile.

Kwok told TTG Asia: “The industry enjoyed a very rewarding year in 2017 and expects to continue in the first half of 2018. However, we have to be nimble in view of external factors including political tension, increasing interest rate and the strong US currency as well as intense competition in the region.

“In fact, the industry faces a (situation of) high base and slow growth in terms of overnight visitors. With about 20,000 new hotel rooms in the next five years, manpower resources is a real challenge. Moreover, our reliance on OTAs will continue to hurt our yields and, not to forget Airbnb, which is becoming more active.”

The association will hence spearhead new initiatives and leverage new business opportunities such as those that may arise from the completion of major infrastructures and the Big Bay Tourism Development.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents (HATA) has elected 32-year-old Ronald Wu as chairman, making him the youngest chief in the association’s history. Son of the former TIC chairman Michael Wu, he joined Gray Line Tours in late 2011 and began his involvement with HATA in 2012 as a convention committee member.

In his two-year term, he intends to focus on members’ participation. He elaborated: “With over 300 members, we can make a difference in the trade, but this can only be done if our members are as engaged as the executive committee are. The challenge is in how to continue to strengthen HATA’s role as a key voice of the industry. We need to remain influential and be involved in all areas that will affect the trade, including regulations, development, education, etc.”

In order to achieve this, he stressed that HATA will need to evolve with the industry, and be aware of the current travel trends including those concerning customer behaviour and new technology. “For the industry to grow, we definitely need more new blood to join the trade,” he said.

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