Promoting Tourism Industry
35. Tourism is another mainstay of our economy, employing some 230 000 people and accounting for 4.5 per cent of GDP. In 2012, there were over 48 million visitors to Hong Kong, an increase of 16 per cent over 2011. Despite the gloomy global economic outlook, total spending associated with inbound tourism increased 16.5 per cent to exceed $300 billion.
36. Buoyant tourism will undoubtedly put pressure on our control points, hotels, tourist attractions and shopping centres. To sustain the healthy development of the tourism industry, we need to devote more efforts to enhancing tourism infrastructure, hotel supply, market promotion, service support, etc.
37. Last year, I announced that the Government would look into the further development of Ocean Park and Hong Kong Disneyland. Ocean Park is the winner of the prestigious 2012 Applause Award, the first-ever Asian attraction to be recognised as the best theme park in the world. To further enhance its facilities, Ocean Park will build an all-weather Water World at Tai Shue Wan. The Government will offer a $2.3 billion loan to Ocean Park to spur early commencement of the project. We shall submit a funding proposal to the Finance Committee in the next few months. In the coming few years, Hong Kong Disneyland will launch a new night-time parade and put in place a themed area featuring "Marvel heroes", the first of its kind in the world. These new projects will be funded by the Disneyland's operating surplus. Meanwhile, the two theme parks are actively pursuing new hotel projects to provide better complementary services for tourists.
38. The terminal building and the first berth of the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal will be commissioned in the middle of this year. Preparations are in full swing for the Terminal to receive its first liner, Mariner of the Seas with a capacity of 3 840 passengers, on 12 June. Meanwhile, we are actively working with the Hong Kong Tourism Board to promote cruise tourism, and collaborate with the travel trade and neighbouring ports on itinerary development and regional co-operation. We aim to exploit the potential of cruise tourism in Asia Pacific and attract more high-spending cruise trip visitors to Hong Kong, so as to reinforce our position as a regional cruise hub.
39. Increasing the supply of hotels will help enhance receiving capacity and service quality. Currently, there are over 210 hotels in Hong Kong, providing more than 67 000 rooms. The Government has been working to make available more hotel rooms through various measures, including providing "hotel only" sites. As at end-2012, 13 applications for redevelopment or wholesale conversion of industrial buildings into hotels were approved by the Lands Department. It is estimated that some 10 000 new hotel rooms will be provided this year and next year.
40. Following my proposal to extend the operation of the Mega Events Fund last year, we sponsored several major international events, including the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival and the Hong Kong Open Championship (golf tournament). We shall continue to sponsor more international mega events to be held in Hong Kong through the Fund, and use the existing mechanism to subsidise mega events hosted by local non-profit-making organisations. In recent years, our neighbouring cities have organised mega events, such as the Formula 1 Races and overseas NBA games. We shall take the initiative to seek to host more mega events.
41. In the coming few years, large-scale tourist facilities will come on stream, and there will be major events funded by the Mega Events Fund or hosted in other forms. I believe that the tourism industry will continue to flourish and spur growth in other service sectors, including food and beverage, retail and transport, creating many employment opportunities.