Hong Kong prepares US$51 million war chest to lift tourism, MICE

The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) will be pushing out a HK$400 million (US$51 million) trade support plan to stimulate tourism and inbound business events once the Covid-19 crisis tapers off.

The announcement comes on the heels of newly released figures that signal a steep crash in visitor arrivals to the country. The provisional figure for visitor arrivals to Hong Kong in February was 199,000, down more than 96 per cent from the same time last year, said HKTB in a press release.

As tourism slows to a trickle, HKTB will be rolling out a US$51 million subsidy to aid the battered industry

Prior to the major border closure measure implemented by the government on February 8, there were 10,000 to 20,000 arrivals per day. Following after, the average daily arrivals fell to 3,300, about 80 per cent of whom were non-Mainland visitors. In view of the current development of the pandemic, HKTB expects a further drop in arrivals this March.

HKTB executive director Dane Cheng said: “The initiatives will cover local and overseas travel agencies, hotels, airlines and attractions, as well as the retail, dining and MICE industries. The estimated budget for the plan will be HK$400 million, funded by the proposed marketing budget in the 2020/21 financial year and the additional funding earmarked in the Budget.”

The plan focuses on three areas, namely, boosting domestic spending confidence and ambience; partnering with trade to intensify promotions in source markets; and stepping up MICE promotion to attract high-yield overnight visitors.

HKTB will offer subsidies to the retail and catering sectors for joint consumer promotion, as well as waive the renewal fee for Quality Tourism Services (QTS) Scheme accredited merchants and offer a 50 per cent reduction in the application fee for new joiners.

The tourism board will also work with the trade to stimulate local spending, including stepping up promotions and support for the QTS Scheme.

In terms of subsidising the trade in their promotions, HKTB will waive the participation fees of the more than 40 trade activities it organises in visitor source markets, including trade fairs and travel missions, and provide subsidies for related air tickets and hotel accommodations.

The organisation will also fully host travel delegations to conduct roadshows in key markets, invite the travel trade in key markets on familiarisation trips to Hong Kong, reintroduce the matching fund for attractions for promotions, as well as increase the subsidising proportion for the Explore Hong Kong Tours support scheme.

In addition, it will partner with the travel trade from Hong Kong and source markets to conduct tactical promotions to attract visitors.

On the business events front, the NTO will subsidise event organisers to bid for large-scale conventions and exhibitions, lower the threshold for applying funding support for small & medium-sized meetings and incentives activities, and extend the scheme to the hotel sector, as well as waive the participation fees for relevant promotion activities organised by the HKTB in source markets and provide subsidies for related air tickets and hotel accommodations.

To attract business event visitors through enhanced promotions, the tourism board will also team up with the hotel sector on a new initiative, MeetON@HongKong, to provide groups with free meeting packages or dining packages.

In 2020/21, the proposed marketing budget, together with the additional funding announced in the Budget for the HKTB, is worth about HK$1,120 million.

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