Incentives spur tourism innovation

Incentives spur tourism innovation A special themed day tour taken recently by a group of European tourists in Hong Kong offers a flavour of the itineraries currently on offer to visitors. Besides taking the Peak Tram to admire the Hong Kong skyline from above, they also visited the Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter and took a boat ride. The group then visited the Blue House in Wan Chai to learn about a mix of modern and older ways of life in Hong Kong, and also the Jin Yong exhibition in Edinburgh Place, Central. They had their photographs taken with martial arts characters from Jin Yong’s novels, and had a go at imitating the two-handed drawing method of the iconic character Zhou Botong. Afterwards, they enjoyed some dim sum and then took a tram to Canal Road in Causeway Bay to experience the culture of “villain hitting”. These unique experiences left strong impressions on the tourists, compelling them to reflect on their itinerary. Valuable insights UK traveller Jeff, who had visited Hong Kong over half a century ago, expressed his delight at witnessing the city’s remarkable transformation. He also emphasised the value of having a knowledgeable tour guide who provided valuable insights. “There is no way we could have found all this information by coming here for a short time, so to have all that information from a tour guide with so much knowledge is very valuable.” Jeff’s fellow traveller, Christine, praised the Jin Yong exhibition, highlighting its meticulous curation and the opportunity to learn about stories previously unknown to her. She found Hong Kong to be a vibrant and welcoming place that exceeded her expectations, and said she was looking forward to visiting again. “I feel like I have not had enough time to see it so I need to come back.” Enhanced competitiveness The tour enjoyed by Jeff and Christine is among the beneficiaries of a scheme announced by the Government in the last Policy Address. The Characteristic Local Tourism Incentive Scheme operates across two categories: “in-depth travel” and “thematic travel. For each visitor they serve, travel agencies can receive incentives of $200 under the former category and $400 under the latter. In each category, the incentives for each agency are capped at 100 local and 100 inbound participants. The Characteristic Local Tourism Incentive Scheme has received praise from participating travel agencies for enhancing the competitiveness of the local industry. Ronald Wu, a travel agency manager, emphasised the importance of government support in designing new programmes and drawing overseas tourists with attractive itineraries at competitive prices. He said the scheme empowers agencies to create immersive experiences that showcase the best of Hong Kong. Quality boosted The Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong (TIC), responsible for implementing the scheme, has established clear guidelines for participating licensed travel agencies. It mandates the inclusion of designated attractions in itineraries when applying for incentives under the in-depth travel category. Meanwhile, the thematic travel category requires a comprehensive review of the entire design of an itinerary to be undertaken before cash incentives can be granted. Participating travel agencies need to register their tour itineraries with the TIC in advance, then submit an application for incentives after a tour takes place. They typically receive payments after a period of between two and two and a half months if all documentation is complete. As of the end of March, approximately 1,600 itineraries had been registered under the scheme, and participants had applied for cash incentives for about 73% of them. Executive Director of the TIC Fanny Yeung said she was impressed by the positive impact the scheme has had on the quality of tour offerings on the market. Ever since the introduction of the Deeper into Hong Kong: Creative Itinerary Design Competition last year, she added, industry players have demonstrated renewed creativity and innovation, leading to the development of unique tour products and an overall improvement in quality. Looking ahead, the TIC has indicated that with Hong Kong recently launching multiple mega events, it will contact various organisers requesting that they reserve quotas of places for travel agencies, with the aim of making travellers’ itineraries more diverse.