An international cycling race over the cross-border mega bridge is on the agenda for 2019 in an attempt to further boost Hong Kong tourism, according to the city’s promotion body.
Hong Kong Tourism Board chairman Peter Lam Kin-ngok said on Tuesday that the body was in talks with Macau and the Guangdong provincial government over a cyclothon on the 55km Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge.
The annual Hong Kong Cyclothon – a mixture of amateur and professional races – was held in October.
The multibillion-dollar bridge – which was due to open for traffic some time this year – was infrastructure the board wanted to use to attract more visitors and shore up Hong Kong’s nascent tourism recovery, he said.
“Ideally we want to see the cyclothon being held at the [bridge’s] opening, but it’s not viable as it’s still not certain when the bridge will open,” Lam said. “Organising the cyclothon is complicated, with logistics and customs clearance issues to resolve.”
The bridge, which was plagued by delays and cost overruns, was supposed to open for traffic at the end of 2017. The Hong Kong government said in December that the central government would determine the opening date, with some mainland media speculating it would be in June.
The board planned to capitalise on the bridge and another coming project – the high-speed rail link between Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou – to boost traveller numbers, executive director Anthony Lau Chun-hon said. The rail line was expected to be in service in the third quarter this year after repeated delays and cost overruns.
The two infrastructure projects would help link nine cities in Guangdong with Macau and Hong Kong, collectively called the Greater Bay Area, as China’s answer to Silicon Valley in the US.
Tourists who stayed overnight in Hong Kong would be the board’s key target, Lau said.
“Last year was a turnaround year,” Lau said. “We hope the trend will continue and do better this year.”
He expected tourism arrivals to the city this year would grow by between 3 and 5 per cent, similar to last year.
In 2017, the number of visitors to Hong Kong grew for the first time in three years, at 4.7 per cent, to 58.47 million. That reversed a 4.5 per cent fall in 2016 and 2.5 per cent drop the year before.
Growth was driven largely by the return of mainland visitors, with 7.2 per cent more arriving in 2017. That meant every three in four visitors were from the mainland.
However, Hong Kong faced more competition from the region, Lau said, on the back of the mainland’s policy to ease visa restrictions to Southeast Asia and slower growth in budget airlines.
Lau said the board would earmark HK$400 million (US$51.3 million) for promotion in 2018-19. The funding could be boosted if Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po allocated extra money in the coming budget on February 28.