Ip gives cable-car business a lift
Wendy Leung Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Secretary for Economic Development and Labour Stephen Ip Shu-kwan Monday gave a personal push to the SAR's two tourism icons - Hong Kong Disneyland and Ngong Ping 360 - as the mainland's "Golden Week" entered its second day.
Accompanied by managing director Bill Ernest, Ip visited three of the latest attractions at Hong Kong Disneyland - Stitch Encounter, Autopia and the UFO zone - and bought a HK$100 Disney baseball cap on Mainstreet USA.
He said he was pleased with the recent increase in the number of visitors to the theme park, as well as the improvements being made by the management.
"The management has tried very hard to make improvements, including strengthening promotional and marketing efforts, adding new attractions and enhancing communication with the travel industry," Ip said, adding he had talked to tourists from Beijing, Shanghai and Switzerland and found them to be happy with the theme park.
Although Hong Kong Disneyland missed its first-year target of getting 5.6 million visitors, Ip said he hoped next year's attendance figure would exceed this year's.
He said the park, in which the SAR government holds a 57 percent stake, is a long-term investment and has no financial problems that would require further government investment.
Ngong Ping 360, the Lantau cable- car system which opened two weeks ago, received more than 9,500 visitors Monday - a record for a single day - with 16,000 cable-car trips being made, breaking the 15,000 daily capacity.
Dressed in a T-shirt emblazoned with the "360" logo, Ip took a cable- car ride to Ngong Ping Village.
"Everyone seems happy today and business here is really good," he said. Referring to the recent string of technical glitches that have caused the system to be suspended, resulting in long queues at the Tung Chung terminal, Ip said: "The problem of strong winds is unavoidable. The most important thing is that [Skyrail-ITM, the operator] is providing a safe, reliable service."
Shop operators and tourists hope the cable-car operator will extend its business hours.
Chopstick Gallery owner Sing Hon- wai said his business has grown by 20 percent in the first two days of the "Golden Week" holidays.
"I hope the cable-car company will extend its business hours so that we can stay open until 10pm on weekends and during the Mid-Autumn Festival, Christmas and the New Year period," Sing said.
Another ship owner, Tim Cheung Kwok-wah, said the "Golden Week" is not of much help. "I reckon it will take at least six months for us to break even."
Kelvin Wong, who works in the printing industry, visited Ngong Ping Village with his pregnant wife. "This place should not close too early. It should remain open until at least 11pm so we can have dinner here and hang around longer," he said.
A Skyrail spokeswoman said the company has been working closely with its shop tenants, but there has been no plans to extend operating hours.
"We'll assess the response from the public and certainly welcome suggestions from our tenants and other business partners on how to further enhance our services," she said.
Ip said the decline in the number of mainland tourists who are avoiding the huge crowds and increased costs should not have a big impact as they would still come to Hong Kong on normal days. "That doesn't mean we're losing visitors. Hong Kong is still an international travel center, and our key tourism markets - Australia, Europe and the Middle East - are pretty strong," he added.