Hong Kong DMCs struggle with domestic market switch

Despite being experts of Hong Kong’s best tourism offerings, the city-state’s DMCs are finding the switch to serve the domestic market – the only available source of potential tourism income now – a tough one to make.

Momentous Asia Travel & Events, which organises meetings, incentives, tours and events in Hong Kong for overseas groups, has turned its business attention to the local staycation market, tapping on supportive clients based in Hong Kong.

Some Hong Kong DMCs move to promote domestic travel, as inbound tourism remains at a standstill, while others are resisting the switch and instead preparing for the return of international travellers 

Despite scoring a few bookings, mostly for short breaks in local hotels, general manager, Doris Lam, told TTG Asia that “it is not easy for DMCs doing inbound business to make adjustments overnight” because “it takes years for a DMC to build up its branding in a market and its clientele base”.

However, with international inbound corporate business cut off by border restrictions during the pandemic, Momentous is left without much choice.

“We are exploring some special local itineraries and, hopefully, we will be able to get a few more bookings in the future,” Lam said, adding that the downtime is also spent on upgrading the company’s online conference registration system for improved protection when international conference can resume as well as to source for fresh destination inspiration.

Struggle to make the switch to cater to a local clientele: Lam

Fellow DMC, Discova, which specialises in international leisure inbound to Hong Kong, supporting its branch offices worldwide, has resisted the domestic market switch.

Country manager for China and Hong Kong, Sandy Ho, opined that an “abrupt switch to domestic leisure in such short time without carrying out research and marketing study” is folly.

“If borders were to reopened in the next few months, we have to get ready for new business. My staff have been busy with new product development, rate renegotiation with our partners, and back-end safety audit,” Ho said, adding that her team is also keeping busy with a soon-to-launch reservation system.

For Ivy Sung, CEO of Faces of Hong Kong, the ROI from serving the domestic leisure marketing is too minimal for the business switch to make sense.

On the other hand, Liberty Hong Kong is all for a change in business model, and is tapping on the government’s Green Lifestyle Local Tour Incentive Scheme which grants travel agencies a cash incentive for organising tours that encourage the public to get close to nature and practise green lifestyles.

Aimed to trigger local economic revival and relaunch the tourism industry, the scheme dishes out incentives of HK$200 (US$25.80) for every tour participant the travel agency gets. Each travel agency can apply for cash incentives for up to 1,000 tour participants.

Liberty Hong Kong’s managing director, Portia Hau, acknowledged the difficulty in luring domestic travellers since Hong Kong is small and easily accessible.

To stand out, itineraries must be unusual and “value for money”, Hau said.

Hau’s team is promoting customised, upscale and in-depth tours via social media and within own social circles between this month and December 2020.

While the Green Lifestyle Local Tour Incentive Scheme does little to cover costs, Hau said getting some business in through the green tours “are good to keep the ball rolling and let our staff earn some money”.

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