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Friday, March 15, 2019, 12:59
Expert: GBA has great potential as tourism hub
By He Shusi
Friday, March 15, 2019, 12:59 By He Shusi

Tencent founder Pony Ma said the Greater Bay Area needs to be further tapped with the development of more educational and financial resources. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Diverse and appealing tourist attractions across the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area will make the region an attractive destination for international travelers, says Lo Sui-on, director of China Travel Service (Hong Kong). 

Lo, also vice-chairman of the China Travel International Investment Hong Kong, said such an approach would also increase the Bay Area’s competitiveness in the global market

Lo, also vice-chairman of the China Travel International Investment Hong Kong, said such an approach would also increase the Bay Area’s competitiveness in the global market.

Talking to China Daily in Beijing during the annual two sessions, Lo, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress, said the 11-city cluster, especially cities less well-known than Hong Kong, Macao, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, should rebrand themselves.

READ MORE: Greater Bay Area looks to foster innovation, tech hub

In his NPC submission this year, Lo said the newly opened Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge should be fully utilized. One of the highlights is the planned tourism center at the east artificial island of the 55-kilometer HZMB - near the Hong Kong side. It should be open to the public soon, Lo said. 

The 100,000-square-meter eastern island is located in mainland waters but very close to Hong Kong International Airport. According to the bridge operator, the HZMB Authority, it has buildings reserved for tourism facilities. These include a parking lot, a canteen, shops and a sightseeing platform. 

However, the island is a grey area in terms of immigration and customs control. It is located in between checkpoints at the two ends. The relevant authorities are still studying its feasibility, the HZMB Authority said. 

“As some travelers just want to visit the bridge, there should be a ‘green channel’ for them, allowing them to visit the east island without crossing the boundary,” Lo said. 

HZMB is the world’s longest sea crossing with a gorgeous view of the sea and the mountains, Lo noted. It is right next to Hong Kong International Airport, where thousands of international travelers come and go every day, he said.

“With the right packaging and convenient measures for boundary crossings, it no doubt has the potential to become a world-class tourist spot,” Lo said. 

To attract more international visitors, Lo also suggested holding an international marathon on the HZMB. 

Organizers could learn from the experience of the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, which attracts over 70,000 runners every year, including 10,000 non-local participants who visit Hong Kong, Lo said. He added that the marathon had developed into a signature international sporting event. 

A marathon on HZMB could be a good chance to attract international visitors and promote the Bay Area to become globally recognized, Lo said. 

The authorities are still studying the feasibility of this - as it is a cross-boundary bridge, added Lo. 

“But the boundary shouldn’t be a big issue,” he said, adding that the first Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon in 1997 was from Hong Kong to Shenzhen. This was organized to celebrate Hong Kong’s return to the motherland. 

Lo believes the current 144-hour visa-free policy designated for certain mainland ports should be expanded to all Bay Area cities to further ease the free flow of international visitors.

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He noted that many mainland cities in the Bay Area were the homes of overseas Chinese. Therefore, with accurate packaging, millions of overseas Chinese could visit the Bay Area as a “homecoming trip”, Lo ventured.

Even though some cities are less developed, he said its current state could actually be an advantage for tourism development in the Bay Area. “Cities in other world-class bay areas have been highly urbanized, while the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area has a more diverse appearance,” he said. “This is what makes the Bay Area unique and fun.”

He hopes the country’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism can coordinate the 11-city cluster effectively. Then, its tourism potential can be unleashed in a more organized way.

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