Don’t build it, and they won’t come

Are these people mentally diseased? Hong Kong, they say, must double the number of hotel rooms in the next 10 years in order to accommodate the rising number of tourists. Here’s a better idea: how about not building more hotels and not accommodating more tourists?

To everyone’s great relief, grinning fraudster Tony/Peter Chan has finally been found guilty of forging tycoon Nina Wang’s will. But a far bigger scam is taking place all around us. Evil, grasping bloodsuckers are trying to con 7 million innocent people into thinking that a bloated and still-expanding tourism industry is good for them.

If you draw a graph of annual tourist numbers in Hong Kong in the last 10 years, it would look something like this…

Draw a graph showing median household incomes, and it looks something like this…

The numbers are rough guesstimates from memory, but the key thing is the basic pattern: visitor numbers have doubled or trebled, while people’s earnings have barely risen. All that money we are told tourists bring into Hong Kong mysteriously doesn’t end up in our pockets. Rather than ‘create jobs’, tourism at best displaces existing ones. Rather than develop the economy, tourism crowds out other activities, reducing opportunities for those of us who aren’t landlords or designer-label retailers. Indeed, if you put a price on the hidden costs from increased crowding, traffic, rents and frustration, this parasite industry is probably eating into – reducing – many or most people’s wealth.

A reporter yesterday asked Chief Executive CY Leung a garbled question that hinted at the possibility that tourism harms residents. CY replied with the predictable blather about striking a balance. But why should there be any balance at all? If tourism damages the vast majority of the population’s interests, stamp it out.

We all know why the interests of property and retail players outweigh everyone else’s well-being. People like the Economic Development Commission’s Jack So see Hong Kong’s future as a sprawling airport terminal, with nothing but endless rows of glossy international outlets in which local menials sell overpriced branded junk to a constant stream of visitors passing through. It’s already happened to Macau.

One hope is that at some point the Chinese government will lift the heavy import and sales taxes it imposes on luxury goods. When this happens, millions of Mainlanders desperate to buy tawdry designer-label bling will no longer have a financial incentive to come to Hong Kong to get it. It can’t happen too soon.

The EDC’s Working Group on Convention and Exhibition Industries and Tourism would disagree, of course. It is packed with industry figures, especially from the conference and hospitality side. The cross-subsidies and hidden social costs surrounding things like international conferences at the HK Convention and Exhibition Centre are complex, but you can be sure that you are being inconvenienced – including financially – to keep bores in suits flooding into town for idiotic MICE events to benefit no-one but the sacred tourism sector.

For a more down-to-earth illustration, consider Lan Kwai Fong. The bar district’s main landlord (who, like the HKCEC boss, is on the Working Group) gets rich selling overpriced booze to tourists (and locals – but that’s not the point). When I pass by some mornings, I see piles of cigarette butts, bottles, broken glass, vomit, the occasional body (this one on the right was a month ago*) and other dirty and dangerous stuff left by the previous night’s revelers. The Nepalese street sweepers come at around 7.30am to clean it up. One guy makes all the money, while the rest of us pay for the mess.

That’s basically the tourism industry. I declare the weekend open with the thought that we would be better off with a hundred Tony Chans at liberty.

*Yes, we did feed it to the dog.

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21 Responses to Don’t build it, and they won’t come

  1. I love tourists. I love money. Stay an extra day please.

  2. Sid (THE LTP) says:

    It’s easy to be critical, but HK does need to have some profitable economic activity. You have often argued in the past that property is not productive (unless, presumably, you can offload more overpriced tat to people based overseas than they can sell), but tourism indisputably does bring money into HK.

    There is undoubted social and even economic cost; and the low cultural level of many of the visitors affects the equation. But the CE may have a point here: tourism can hardly be banned, and a balance should be struck. A minmax solution might be to improve the “quality” of the tourism ie go upmarket, by eliminating mass tourism: tax hotels, tour buses, megaphones, tour guides, even entry to HK?

  3. notonlybutalso says:

    Is it just me or is there something not quite right about the Tony Chan legal fiasco? I think the whole thing stinks.

  4. Sid (THE LTP) says:

    How do you prove “beyond the shadow of a doubt” that somebody forged a document?

  5. Probably says:

    Agree with Sid here and there is at least one simple step that can be taken to raise the bar on tourism just by policing the tour coaches.

    Everyday hundreds of them occupy certain areas such as TST East, Gloucester Road and Lockhart Road either parking or boarding / alighting passengers. Their actions inconvenience thousands of motorists (well me at least) as they block entire traffic lanes and bus stops. This is done presumably so that they do not have to pay for proper parking which would only lead to increase in their costs and hence be passed on to their “quality” clients.

    A quick word from CY into the ear of the Police Chief to go out and nick all of the illegal parking would soon lead to a rise in the costs for mainland tourists to come here and at the same time reduce HK traffic congestion and pollution. Simple really!

  6. Fred (the RTP) says:

    The term “plague of locusts” does come to mind when you put it that way….

    @notonlybutalso : could you be more specific please ? As far as I’m concerned I think he well deserves to be behind bars and I’m just happy that no more of my tax money is being spent on convicting him. Now I’m looking forward to the same happening to Raffy Hui and the Kwok bros ( and that’s a conviction I am happy to see my tax money spent on) .

  7. maugrim says:

    HK’s motto should be ‘well, so long as someone is making money somewhere……” Time for a revolution.

  8. Why halt the Hong Kong Apocalypse? You people are no fun at all.

  9. Oneleggoalie says:

    Half the number of mainland people in HK are not tourists…they are working prostitutes…
    We need to get rid of the ugly ones and things will become more bearable…
    A revolution is a good idea…Oneleg thinks after we oust China…we should celebrate for a year…at least…

  10. Andanotherthing says:

    Best thing that has happened in my Wanchai neighbourhood recently was the closure of the seafood restaurant on the corner of Lockhart and Tonnochy. I labelled the restaurant in question as ‘The Trough’.

    It catered to obviously micro-cost Mainland tour groups. Buses dropping off and picking up tour groups caused major traffic jams on Lockhart, Tonnochy and Hennessy Roads (about which our boys and girls in brown uniforms appeared to do nothing). The entrance area to the restaurant almost became a war-zone in the evenings between 6-7pm as over-stressed Hongkongers had to fight their way home through the assembled masses gathering to enter this culinary heaven. Added to which large groups of Mainlanders would ‘hot-pot’ around the litter bin on the street corner filling the whole area with the pungent aroma of cheap Mainland cigarettes. What delights – and this is the impact of just one restaurant!

    As the SCMP monitors this site (along with probably every known intelligence agency) and to save myself the trouble of writing to the Editor, could I please
    also make the point that I do not wish to have a free shower provided by leaking air conditioners every time I walk down Lockhart Road. I do have a shower at home thank you. Let’s see some action from whatever enforcement mob is tasked with combating the scourge of leaking air conditioners.

  11. reductio says:

    And how is this crowd going to be moved around? The rush hour crush at the platform change at Admiralty Station is crazy now. How many more tourists with wheely suitcases doing the TST-Causeway Bay shuttle can the MTR take?

  12. Stephen says:

    So the great Nina Wang will’s saga is complete. Act One played out in the High Court and Appeal Court saw Nina facing jail over forging Husband Teddy’s will and yet surprise surprise the Court of Final Appeal thought that total tosh and declared her not guilty. Then in Act Two the hapless Tony, not content with being given truck loads of cash, decides to go for the big prize and lost. Tony can go on, cheered on by his big bucks lawyer, through the higher courts but in the end there is going to be no final act surprise this time.

    Small time chancer took on the Hong Kong establishment and his lawyers didn’t brief him about what happened in Act One? Even if Nina, had lost all lucidity, and wrote that will did he really think he would get the big prize?

    Oh well some serious time and back to being a barman upon release.

  13. nulle says:

    Something moar crazy: let parents of anchor babies work in #HK It’s at least 500,000 people

    Hong Kong is becoming mainlandized…come on, people….do you want more PRC chinese urinating and defacating in the streets, cutting in lines, splitting on the streets, more milk powder shortages, etc.

    Time to fight back before the game is up.

  14. Fred (the RTP) says:

    @ Reductio : I agree – it’s the wheelie suitcases that bug me too, both the stand-up-and-push type, and worse still the drag-pull type which you stumble over. And also that they pushers ( pullers) travel as snails pace in small bands blocking the whole pavement – and then suddenly stop mid-pace leading to rear-end collisions. Aaaagh – I’m becoming racist… at last….

    @ Probably – sorry mate but it’s water off a duck’s back. There’s absolutely NO way the police will ever do anything about the coaches. They can’t even be bothered to do anything about all the other illegal parking, neither can the traffic wardens ( Question: why do parking wardens always amble around in pairs? Are they gay or what ? )

  15. Joe Blow says:

    Mainlanders in the MTR and on the corner of Lockhart and Tonnochy ?

    You really are a bunch of proletarians, aren’t you ? My goodness, who bothers with the MTR ? Let alone the corner of Lockhart and Tonnochy ? (where, incidentally, I met my first wife).

    By the way, Club Tonnochy still operating ?

  16. P.A. Crush (Sha Tin) says:

    @ “consider Lan Kwai Fong. The bar district’s main landlord (who, like the HKCEC boss, is on the Working Group) gets rich selling overpriced booze to tourists and locals”

    Could that possibly be the same landlord who stood for election in the 2011 Chief Executive Election Committee and in his Election Platform expressed his great concern about “soaring rents”?

  17. Sid – you don’t have to prove he forged the will “beyond a shadow of a doubt” – only beyond reasonable doubt, which is not quite the same thing.

  18. Fred the Proletarian says:

    @ Joe Blow

    Last time I happened by Tonnochy Rd the club had closed down, and good riddance.

    But yes, Wanchai these days is chock-a-block full of mainland tour groups because of the preponderance of very cheap hotels and the proximity to CAC’s office in Hennessy Rd where the cross-border coaches unload.

    PS: I have nothing personal against Mainland tourists , and indeed there’s not a few of the female variety who are quite dishy.
    It’s their suitcases that get in the way.

    @ Sid : even if turdy chan’s conviction was based on “just a shadow of doubt” I think he got his just deserts and also good riddance. Ne’er did the evolutionary process spew out such a ratfink

  19. The Regulator says:

    In their grasp for HKD83,000,000,0000, both sets of the lawyers for the fraud ought resign

  20. Old China Trash says:

    The greatest thing that came out of this saga is the fact that a property empire has become a charity foundation for the well-being of society. As opposed to the inheritance of a bunch of useless, spoiled kids and their useless, spoiled offspring, as will be the case in regard to Cheung Kong, Henderson Land, New World, Wheelock, Hopewell, Shun Tak, Sino Land and the other shit-for-brains pudding noses.

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