Desperately needed: counter-tourism measures

An op-ed in the South China Morning Post a few weeks ago called for a freeze in the number of tourists arriving in Hong Kong, and an end to the provision of land or public funds for facilities catering to outsiders rather than to the local population. China Daily has had two columns this week (so far) blaming tourism for poverty and the city’s overall malaise. Our officials, meanwhile, see the imminent opening of the vast, publicly subsidized, HK$7 billion cruise terminal at Kai Tak as something we are supposed to cheer. Aside from a Tourism Board many people love to hate, we have an entire government department trying to cram yet more overseas guests into our streets.

The obvious reason for the bureaucrats’ obsession with boosting tourist numbers even as the city is clearly reaching its maximum capacity is plain obtuseness. Our officials try to boost tourism year after year for much the same reason an inbred, mentally retarded inmate in an insane asylum rocks backwards and forwards for months on end: it’s wired in, and they aren’t even aware that they’re doing it.

A more pernicious explanation would be that our policymakers are in cahoots with vested interests. The main beneficiaries of our tourism industry are commercial landlords. The sector is therefore essentially a subset of the tycoon-run property cartel that, with the all-too obvious blessing of policymakers, controls housing, retail, distribution, transport, energy, construction and … is there anything I’ve missed?

Either way, experience has shown that the people of Hong Kong can bend the powers-that-be to their will if they are sufficiently roused. From an administrative point of view, cutting the tourism menace down to size is simple: you slap a 50% tax on luxury goods, with a promise to reduce it in tandem with similar levies as they are lowered on the Mainland. (Such a move damages our reputation as a shopper’s paradise? That’s the whole idea. Abercrombie & Fitch’s Pedder Building branch folds under the weight of its HK$7 million-a-month rent? That’s the whole idea.)

The problem is convincing the government to reverse its avidly pro-tourism stance. Making a pair of visitors wait two hours for their bus so they freak out is a start. I myself have broken the deeply ingrained habits of a lifetime and started to be less than polite when physically moving tourist-obstructions staring at maps out of my way when they block my path. Although I am happy with the idea in theory, I still can’t quite bring myself to give visitors deliberately bad directions, like putting them on the number 112 to So Uk Estate when they want to go to Stanley Market. I was too well brought up.

While I ponder ‘the way forward’ (a ‘Re-Occupy Central’ movement?), I have an interesting task. I’ve got to (because my neighbours are too distant or senile to do it) call Richfield Realty to demand that they come over and fix the empty, leaky-when-raining apartment they own in my block. They buy up units in old buildings with a view to eventually knocking them down for redevelopment (by their buddies Henderson Land). The twist is that they are (allegedly) scum and have a reputation (allegedly) for deliberately causing problems like leaks in buildings in order to drive other owners out.


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17 Responses to Desperately needed: counter-tourism measures

  1. There was a suggestion from the Tourism Board that we need more tourist attractions. I immediately sent them a preliminary list:

    1. Genetically Modified Taxi Drivers – Ones that open doors, talk, help with heavy luggage, turn down radios etc.

    2. Bathe with Long Hair (annual)

    3. Outshout Emily Lau Contest.

    4. Be one of the Human Zoo at Lan Kwai Fong – amuse the Mainland tourists.

    5. Real Discipline In Schools – Catholics and Japanese only.

    6. Spot The Yellow Porsche and guess the driver’s penis length.

    We can move forward together. Hong Kong is my home.

  2. maugrim says:

    I want a re-occupy HK movement. Did you know that last week there were 9.4 million mainland visitors in HK? This is absurd. In essence, the population more than doubled. I can’t imagine how our civil service sees our capacity to deal with such numbers. As to the crying fool demanding (and receiving!) compensation for having to wait 2 hours for a bus, beware the future of HK when our own people start pulling such stunts. HK is on the road to becoming a nightmare.

  3. Pcrghll says:

    I would refer you to your post a few years ago when you directed some Sevens fans to the Kennedy Town abattoir, or something.

  4. sun yee on says:

    The reason your neighbours don’t want to phone Richfield is because they know better. The leaking is no accident, it’s one of their usual techniques. There’s nothing “alleged” about their scuminess; they intimidate people into selling by letting buildings run down, or worse. If they’re buying in your building, get ready to experience some serious urban decay first-hand over the next decade.

    They are the ones that got screwed the hardest by the new real estate tax (sorry, I meant “stamp duty”), and it couldn’t have happened to nicer people.

  5. Joe Blow says:

    As an inbred, mentally retarded inmate at the FCC bar, I resemble that remark.

  6. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Maugrim

    Is that 9.4 million tourists a genuine number? Or does it mean that there were 9.4 million tourist entries into HK (and of course a equal number of exits, but if all the tourists only stayed for – say – one day that means the actual number of tourists in HK each day was only 9.4 / 7 = 1.3 million

    (I am asking a serious question – for once . I cannot believe that HK can absorb 9.4 million extra people , even if they are all staying in hotels … or waiting for coaches !)

    @ Bela : nice one ! Especially the one about the penis in the yellow Porsche

    How about a new HK Tourism Theme ” Coaches for roaches” ?

  7. Sojourner says:

    @ maugrim “Did you know that last week there were 9.4 million mainland visitors in HK?”

    Gor blimey, where’s my rattan cane!

    Locusts does seem an apposite word for these hosts.

  8. maugrim says:

    Guys, from the mouth of one of our top officials, one who would know.

  9. Jonathan Stanley says:

    RTP: If those are tourists and are overnight stays of say 3 days, that’s actually ~4 million extra people concurrently… and it does feel like a city of 10 million people as the population numbers now are not much different from 1980’s… yet the urban areas are markedly more crowded.

  10. Old Timer says:

    If we slapped a 50% sales tax on luxury goods, wouldn’t that have to be refunded at the border anyway, as in UK, Europe and elsewhere?

  11. Worm Flu Patient Zero says:

    Let us know how you get on with Richfield. You may want to have a chat with Regina Ip or Mike Rowse about it. They both apperently live in buildings that are over 50 years old – and are in sought after neighbourhoods. Regina wants to go back to the old 90% purchase rule – I would vote for her if she could swing it.

  12. Adrian says:

    “Spot The Yellow Porsche and guess the driver’s penis length.”

    A few years ago my friends and I regularly spotted such a vehicle in Central and Admiralty during lunch or early evening. The car made far more noise than a properly tuned Porsche should. We’d often raise a pinkie finger if the driver was close enough to see. Not really getting it, or being sarcastic, he’d give us the Shaka (Hawaii Aloha Spirit) sign back.

  13. Cerebos says:

    Re: slow-shuffling 5-abreast lines of people obstructing efficient ambulatory progress: they’re called “Chwalls”. Chinese walls geddit?

  14. Dream Bear says:

    Going off the theme for the day, but picking up on last weeks discussions about the reliability of the pro-Democratics to organise a piss up in brewery, I see that Claudia MO is attacking her own party in this morning’s SCMP. As a founding member of the Civic Party (aka The Champagne socialists) her comments must warm the hearts of the dyed hair brigade up North. Another own goal!

  15. Real Tax Payer says:

    I reckon the prick in the yellow Porsche is that obnoxious Keith Kerr (or is it spelled “Cur”?) who heads up REDA. That’s the kind of noisy, objectionable car that some one who works for REDA would drive around town.

    Bet he also parks it illegally overnight because he’s too mean-fisted to pay for a car park. (And he never bothers to lock the car door either because who in their right mind would ever want to steal a yellow Porsche ?)

    PS : The answers to No. 6. are (A) 3.5 cm & (B) 0.5cm respectively Length (B) is – as should be the case for any property built these days by our Tycoons – “final measurement upon completion”

  16. Property Developer says:

    We solved all your problems long ago in the NT.

    Never live below other people, because they’ll drip their aircons, spy, or throw rubbish or worse out on you; never live above other people, as they will conspire to block your access.

    Avoid eye contact on the pavements, but if all else fails run backwards at speed — never fails.

    Never give in to paranoia: they’re not really doing it on purpose but only because they were brought up by peasants who themselves didn’t know any better.

  17. Incredulous says:

    I waited for a bus to leave Exchange Square yesterday for 10 mins whilst some jackass “locusts” were arguing about the bus fare with the driver. I demand HK$3,000 for them wasting my time!

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