Michael Lim can give you several reasons to visit Hong Kong – at least 80 reasons, these days.
That’s the number of “mega events” the cosmopolitan city on China's southern coast will see in the first half of the year.
Two weeks ago, Hong Kong’s government vowed to support organizers holding festivities in the city as officials move to boost tourism since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted almost a year ago.
The outcome was green lighting 80 “mega events,” spanning the sectors of culture, sports and finance, which will add to Hong Kong’s already-robust calendar of events and festivals.
“That gives you a little perspective of the level of excitement in Hong Kong,” said Lim, director for the Americas at the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), speaking to PAX Thursday night (Feb. 8) at Toronto’s Carlu venue, where a “Year of the Dragon” reception, organized with the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, was held for about 120 travel partners.
Hong Kong’s events include an art installation called “Chubby Hearts Hong Kong” by U.K. fashion designer Anya Hindmarch, which will see floating hearts appear in various locations around Hong Kong for 10 days from Valentine’s Day.
From March 22-24, Hong Kong will host ComplexCon, a pop culture “festival of the future” (held annually in California), which is set to draw some 30,000 people.
There’s the upcoming Art Central fair, back for the first time since 2019. This will overlook Victoria Harbour, showcasing Asian and global artists, with more than 90 participating galleries.
Art Basel also returns to Hong Kong this year with a full-scale edition.
From March 28-30, a total of 243 premier international galleries will host programs within and beyond the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
“We want to make Hong Kong an arts hub,” Lim explained.
Sports are also giving the city a boost. The Hong Kong Sevens, a rugby sevens tournament, returns this April, for example.
The Year of the Dragon
Hong Kong started 2024 with a bang – the bustling city rang in the new year with its largest-ever fireworks display, treating spectators to a 12-minute dazzling show in Victoria Harbour.
On Saturday (Feb. 10), the first day of Chinese New Year, an eye-popping night parade will return to Tsim Sha Tsui, a vibrant shopping and nightlife district in Kowloon.
Glamourous floats and international and local performers, including the Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders, are set to perform in this year’s festive march.
In Chinese culture, the Year of Dragon is believed to bring growth and success as it embodies strength, courage, and resilience.
Those three qualities, really, reflect the essence of Hong Kong, Lim told attendees last night in his welcome remarks.
“Our city, like the mythical dragon, is dynamic, culturally rich, and relentlessly progressive. Indeed, Hong Kong is confident, charismatic, and resilient,” Lim said.
To set the mood, members of Toronto-based Wushu Project performed a dragon dance, bringing a life-sized dragon prop to life in the Carlu, while members of the Hong Kong Freestyle Kendama Association shared a balancing ball act, using “kendamas,” a skill toy consisting of a handle, cup, and ball.
“Hong Kong is back”
Hong Kong’s post-COVID tourism revival began last year with the "Hello Hong Kong” campaign, which is still running on digital channels in Canada.
Five episodes about Hong Kong experiences are also currently airing on The Weather Network.
In 2023, Hong Kong welcomed 34 million visitors, and of that amount, 209,000 visitors were from Canada, Lim told PAX.
To put things into perspective, Hong Kong’s arrival numbers passed the 60 million mark in pre-pandemic times.
“Hong Kong is back,” Lim said. “We’ve come a long way. It’s still a gradual recovery, there are challenges. But with challenges come opportunities.”
Limited air lift is what hinders growth, Lim admitted. However, signs of increased capacity and connections are on the horizon.
Air Canada, for example, recently boosted the capacity in its Asia-Pacific network.
The enhancements include up to 11 weekly flights between Vancouver and Hong Kong, and doubling the capacity between Canada and Japan (which is about a five-hour flight away from Hong Kong).
Cathay Pacific, which has kept Canadians connected to Asia for more than 40 years, offers non-stop flights from both Vancouver and Toronto to Hong Kong.
Connectivity between Canada and Hong Kong can also be found at EVA Air and China Airlines.
Lim said the HKTB is looking to expand its partnerships with carriers so that Hong Kong is included in more networks.
The HKTB recently hosted a FAM for tour operators, and from that came a renewed enthusiasm to package Hong Kong in new and inspiring ways.
“We’re looking at new experiences, from the culinary side to traditional shopping to outdoors and culture,” Lim said. “Hong Kong has a multitude of experiences, we have something for everyone.”
The HKTB's "Night Vibes in Hong Kong" campaign, on now, is breathing new life into the city’s nightlife scene.
Visitors heading to Hong Kong soon, and interested in receiving a Hong Kong Nights Treats from HKTB (with a value of HKD100) can visit an HKTB Visitor Centre in the city, Lim said.
Multi-destination tourism is a key part of Lim’s strategy for Canada. The tourism board plans to promote itineraries that link Hong Kong with other destinations, like Japan or Thailand.
(PAX experienced this exciting travel style back in 2018 when we paired Hong Kong with Taiwan, which is less than a two-hour flight away).
“The average Canadian that goes that far away will usually visit two or three destinations,” Lim said. “The magic of Hong Kong is that it’s a hub.”
Always something new
In a diverse city of nearly 7.5 million people, there’s always something new to unpack in Hong Kong.
Some of the city’s new and upgraded attractions include the Hong Kong Palace Museum at the West Kowloon Cultural District, the new sixth-generation Peak Tram, Water World Ocean Park and enhanced waterfront promenades.
And seriously, the city’s arts scene doesn’t slow down.
From March 16 to April 7, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority will hold its inaugural WestK FunFest, presenting three weeks of family activities, including Harbourside Lawn of the Art Park, Freespace and the Xiqu Centre.
There’s also the not-to-be-missed M+, Asia's first global museum of contemporary visual culture, in the West Kowloon Cultural District. It has new commissions and a cinema program for its third year since opening in November 2021.
And, oh, don’t forget to visit Temple Street, a decorated neighbourhood known for its night market, which was recently revitalized. It’s a perfect portrait of Hong Kong nightlife.
“As we stand here tonight, let us embody the dragon's spirit,” Lim told guests last night at The Carlu. “Let us continue our friendship in the years to come, a friendship like the mighty dragon – full of life, dignity, vigour and power!”
For the latest info on Hong Kong, click here.