Cultural strength helps GBA unleash tourism potential

Zhou Mo

Cultural strength helps GBA unleash tourism potential

As global demand grows for culture and heritage-related travel, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, with rich cultural resources and heritages, has great potential for developing tourism, and Hong Kong is well-positioned to play a leading role in driving the trend, business leaders and experts said on Tuesday.

They made the remarks at a panel discussion themed “Unlocking Tourism Collaborations through Cultural Sustainability and Heritage Development in the GBA”. The panel discussion was part of the Greater Bay Area Conference, co-organized by China Daily and the Hong Kong Coalition.

Hong Kong will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic as a tourist destination with stronger competitiveness and greater attractiveness, catering better to new demand from global travelers, said Pang Yiu-kai, chairman of the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

“Hong Kong remains one of the world’s most vibrant and attractive destinations. The only major difference as we emerge from the pandemic is that we have much more, not less, to offer to global visitors when they return,” he said.

“The emergence of the Greater Bay Area has broadened and brightened our horizons and provided us with the opportunities to showcase to the world the richness not only of Hong Kong, but also of a dynamic new region full of diversity, life, history and heritage.”

Pang said that a growing trend for global travelers is to seek a higher degree of engagement in their visits, with a greater demand for an immersed cultural and heritage experience. Hong Kong, with a wealth of cultural resources and diverse tourist attractions, is “ideally” positioned to react to such a trend, he said.

“We believe Hong Kong is well equipped to be the gateway to the Greater Bay Area, connecting the GBA cities to the world and bringing in this new breed of culture- and heritage-seeking tourists from every continent,” he said.

Pansy Ho Chiu-king, group executive chairman and managing director of Shun Tak Holdings Ltd, said culture is one of the most important advantages of the Greater Bay Area, aside from its policy and market advantages. The Lingnan culture forms the foundation on which multicultural societies in the region rest, and binds different places in the Greater Bay Area together, she said.

Ho said she has been making efforts to foster cultural exchanges and dialogue between Hong Kong and the world for many years, championing the promotion of Lingnan culture and formulating tourism strategies to invigorate the spirit of the culture.

“By emphasizing culture and creativity in our strategies, we can unlock collaboration across the region and ultimately across the wider global tourism economy,” she said.

Adrian Cheng Chi-kong, CEO of New World Development Co Ltd, said heritage economics is a new kind of economy, a flourishing trend that embraces not only the physical heritage of the past, but the living heritage of humanity.

“As a West-and-East hub for cultural exchange, Hong Kong has great potential to turn the city into a cultural heritage destination for all,” Cheng said.

Hong Kong as well as the whole Greater Bay Area are destined to play a significant role in welcoming this new era of a living-heritage economy, as the city is rich with relics of its heritage stories where West and East meet in a fruitful combination, Cheng said, appealing that this heritage should be kept alive for a vibrant and viable future.

Cheng also said that opportunities to blend culture, heritage and tourism are immense, particularly in the East-and-West cultural hub of Hong Kong and the wider Greater Bay Area, adding that he expects the advent of a vibrant future for the region as a cultural destination for the world.

Han Wangxi, director of the Shenzhen Innovative and Creative Design Development Office, said, “How to realize the creative transformation and innovative development of traditional culture is a major issue in theory and practice, while the revival of history and culture, the enhancement of the city’s vitality and the implantation of diverse cultures all require careful consideration.”

Han introduced the Nantou Old Town revitalization project, which places great emphasis on the collection of historical data and research on the ancient town.

With the aim of exploring the “cultural heritage of the same clan and origin” of Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macao, the Nantou historic town project could be restored to a high quality, comprehensive and maximum respect for history, leaving behind Shenzhen’s memory and passing on a thousand-year culture, Han said.

Louis Ng, director of the Hong Kong Palace Museum, said, “There has been a shift from tangible heritage-based experiences to more intangible and creative forms of content in recent years.”

He said that the tourism industry must grab these new opportunities to deal with the current crisis, and the integration of culture through some technologies is a crucial element of this and will become an important engine for developing a sustainable tourism industry in the future.

The Hong Kong tourism industry is facing unprecedented challenges under the global pandemic. It’s time to upgrade tourism products, create new resources and shape a more sustainable and innovative tourism ecosystem, Ng added.

Eric Fok, vice-president of Fok Ying Tung Group, highlighted the role sports could play in enhancing national identity and deepening integration between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland.

He took the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as an example. The outstanding achievements that the national team and Hong Kong team made in the Olympics have greatly increased cultural confidence and enhanced national identity among Hong Kong people, stirring up a wave of patriotism, he said.

The expected visit of dozens of national athletes to Hong Kong on Friday will further promote integration and understanding between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, Fok added.

“With the increase of cultural confidence through sports and friendship, we are really able to integrate ourselves and contribute towards the economic growth of the Greater Bay Area,” he said.

Contact the writers at sally@chinadailyhk.com