‘Tourism sector must be upgraded before reopening’

Commerce Secretary Edward Yau on Friday stressed the importance of upgrading the tourism industry to prepare for an eventual border reopening.

In the financial secretary’s latest budget, HK$1.26 billion has been earmarked for boosting the tourism sector and the money will be used, among other things, to train staff and launch tourism products with cultural and heritage elements.

Speaking at a briefing on the latest budget, the commerce minister said some HK$3.8 billion has been dished out to travel agents and their staff to help the industry stay afloat amid the pandemic.

Yau said the sector has been more resilient than officials expected, with fewer agencies shutting down than feared.

“They are coping, waiting that when the fine day comes, where tourists can come back, they would have the ability to rebound. That’s why the second tranche of support, including enhancing Hong Kong’s attractiveness as a tourism destination is so important,” he said.

“I think Hong Kong remains a very attractive place for tourists. But of course, for the entire world, Covid has been putting up a major barrier. So we are taking this opportunity of this lull period to upgrade the trade as a whole, to maintain Hong Kong’s image and also to equip every frontline practitioner.”

The minister wouldn’t say when the border will reopen, but said there’s great hope for recovery after Hong Kong controls the epidemic.