While the tourism industry is exploring its new normal, the HKTB spares no effort in providing top-notch services and drumming up Hong Kong’s international presence.
Amidst the social incidents and COVID-19 pandemic in 2019/20, Cynthia Leung, General Manager of Corporate Affairs, led her team to undertake two important aspects of work: public relations and visitor services. “The international spotlight was on Hong Kong in 2019/20. My team’s top priority was to get accurate information and positive messages about Hong Kong through to visitors and the media in the source markets.”
“In terms of public relations, we increased the exposure of selected long-running in-town events and actively persuaded global and regional media to film their productions in Hong Kong so as to maintain a positive international presence; in terms of visitor services, we enhanced the use of digital platforms and technologies to keep visitors properly informed before and when they were in town to minimise inconvenience they might encounter and ensure a satisfactory experience.”
Although the international media might not be in town to experience the events, Leung’s team continued to engage them, leveraging their influence and communication platforms to sustain exposure and deliver positive messages about Hong Kong to the global audience.
The strategy can be illustrated with two of the HKTB’s mega events in 2019/20: Leung’s team actively pitched to the international and national media the enhanced “A Symphony of Lights” music and light show held on New Year’s Eve, which was eventually broadcast live by more than 60 media outlets worldwide and covered in over 1,500 media reports, generating HK$82 million in publicity value. The team also worked with influential news channel CNBC to report and livestream the Hong Kong e-Sports & Music Festival, which reached over 100 million households.
Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Leung’s team actively lobbied for filming in Hong Kong by international and regional media. During the year, her team assisted productions by media like Discovery
Channel, Nat Geo People, Eastern Broadcasting Company (Taiwan) and Network Ten (Australia). The related programmes had been lined up for broadcast in Southeast Asia, Taiwan, the Mainland, the US, Europe and Australia to impress the audience with Hong Kong’s diverse travel experiences and pique their interest in visiting the city in the future.
A highlight was the filming of an episode of Restaurants on the Edge, an original programme developed by the world’s leading streaming entertainment service provider Netflix. The location shooting was secured through the cooperation between the HKTB’s Head Office and Canadian office, and the HKTB provided through-train assistance to the crew.
“While each episode is only 47-minute long, Hong Kong is the first and only Asian city featured in the first two seasons of the show. It was a rare opportunity to showcase our city to more than 160 million Netflix subscribers,” Leung said excitedly.
“We were also happy to have filmmaker Stephen Friedman in town filming episodes of his travelogue series Chasing the Sun, which was broadcast on Nat Geo People to promote Hong Kong’s unique culture, gastronomy and outdoors.”
Another communication channel identified by the HKTB was the word of mouth of the expatriate community. Leung said, “The ‘Hong Kong is ON’ campaign was intended to revive Hong Kong’s social atmosphere and recreate its positive image. To this end, we engaged expat media to encourage Mainland and foreign professionals working in Hong Kong to act as ambassadors and share their life here with their families and friends back home.”
Leung noted that the nature of enquiries from in-town visitors has changed in the past year. “There might have been fewer visitors in Hong Kong, but those who reached out to the HKTB were usually in need of immediate assistance. We noticed that many of them got in touch through instant messaging apps like LINE, so we deployed more front-line staff to the back office to handle these urgent enquiries. The team even jotted down the itineraries of visitors who got in contact before coming to Hong Kong, so that we could send them updates through instant messaging apps when they were in town,” Leung explained.
“Many visitors have told us it would be helpful to get real-time information while they are in town. In response, the HKTB launched a Live Map that displays real-time information including temporarily closed routes and transport delays.” The Live Map was also shared with hotels and shopping malls in case visitors asked them for help. At its peak, it was viewed about 10,000 times a day.
At the end of the interview, Leung asserted, “While the tourism industry is exploring its new normal, the HKTB spares no effort in providing top-notch services and drumming up Hong Kong’s international presence. No matter what challenges lie ahead, it is our mission to do everything we can to uphold the city’s position as a top-of-mind destination.”