Delayed transport links to benefit hospitality sector, Michael Taylor writes.

Two long-awaited infrastructural projects are set to be completed later this year, and they should have a major impact on the hospitality and tourism industries of Hong Kong and Macau.

The first, a large-scale sea crossing, is nearing completion. It will link Hong Kong, Macau, and Zhuhai by way of a system of three bridges, three man-made islands and one tunnel spanning the Lingdingyang Channel.

The second is a high-speed rail link that will connect Hong Kong with the nearby cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou, continuing north all the way to both Shanghai, China’s largest city, and Beijing, its capital.

“Once the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and Express Rail Link are completed, the connectivity and accessibility between Hong Kong and mainland cities will significantly improve, especially for those cities in western Guangdong,” says James Tung, Director, Travel Trade Sales, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort.

“Not only do we anticipate benefits for the whole tourism industry within the territory, but also a boost in the number of guests visiting Hong Kong Disneyland.”

The resort has been stepping up its marketing and promotional efforts in key Chinese markets in anticipation of the launch of the two projects.

“We believe that with the completion of the new infrastructure and the park’s added entertainment offerings, plus Disney’s wonderful stories and characters, Hong Kong Disneyland will welcome more repeat and first-time guests from around the world, helping the resort and Hong Kong become a top-notch and unique tourist attraction and destination.”

Most important source market

Guangdong province is already Hong Kong’s most important source market, and these two links – along with other projects – will further enhance the city’s connectivity with the entire Greater Pearl River Delta region.

“We can foresee a further growth in the numbers of visitor arrivals from China, which will drive activities of many sectors including hospitality,” says Pierre Barthes, General Manager, Area Vice President of Operations, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong. “Having this accessibility will boost both the leisure and business travel segments as well as enhance Hong Kong’s position as an international hub.”

All of which raises an interesting question: with China accounting for the lion’s share of Hong Kong’s tourism arrivals, is the city too dependent on this one market?

According to Rene Teuscher, General Manager of New World Millennium Hong Kong Hotel, the city does, in fact, depend too much on China, and he would welcome “more international promotions” as well as other steps to diversify the city’s tourism offerings.

Hong Kong Disneyland opened its third hotel – Disney Explorers Lodge – last year, and Ocean Park has two hotels under development, the first of which –  a 471-room Marriott – is scheduled to open this summer.

“This will be a milestone for Ocean Park,” says Matthias Li, the park’s chief executive. “This will bring a more holistic and diverse experience to not only the tourists but also locals. We expect to attract more visits and a longer duration of stay. Our target is double-digit growth in visitor numbers and revenue.”

30 projects

Altogether, an estimated 30 projects are expected to be completed by the end of the year, with another 13 expected to open in 2019.

With new hotels opening right and left, one of the biggest challenges facing Hong Kong’s hospitality industry is a serious shortage of labour.

“With Hong Kong’s unemployment rate of 3 per cent, securing talent is one of our main challenges in the year ahead,” says Dr Jennifer Cronin, President – Wharf Hotels.

The group launched a leadership programme in mid-2017 to help navigate its employees “towards a more successful future and strengthen competencies aimed at leading people, delivering exceptional results, personal effectiveness and strong relationships,” Cronin says.

Following two disappointing years, 2017 saw an increase in tourism arrivals. As a result, some of the city’s 292 hotels have been running at or near capacity.

“Last year, we achieved an average of 94 per cent room occupancy,” says Richard Hatter, General Manager of Hotel ICON. “Average RevPAR for the last three quarters was 5 per cent above the average level of 2017. The Hong Kong Tourism Board is forecasting more than 60 million tourists visiting Hong Kong in 2018, which is a 3.6 per cent increase year-on-year.”