Hong Kong tourism week peaks with bagpipes, wine, giveaways

by Kazuaki Nagata

A weeklong celebration of Hong Kong climaxed Saturday at Roppongi Hills in Minato Ward, Tokyo, as various events were launched to promote travel to the city.

With a crowd of about 350 gathered at the ritzy business/residential complex in the heart of the capital, an official ceremony to commemorate the week kicked off with the powerful sound of bagpipes and drums played by the Hong Kong police band, followed by a speech and a toast by Yoshiaki Honpo, commissioner of the Japan Tourism Agency.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of Japan’s decision to let its people travel abroad for nonbusiness purposes and the fifth anniversary of the visa-waver program allowing Hong Kong residents to more freely visit Japan.

Japan and Hong Kong thus decided to designate 2009 as the year of tourism exchange and are planning to promote various incentives to induce travel to both sides throughout the year.

For instance, Japanese can receive free tram tickets and get discount coupons good at restaurants, hotels and other shops in the city.

Wine was also a focal point during the week as Hong Kong strives to capitalize on the abolishment of its alcohol tariff to become the international wine-trading hub of the region.

“From reasonable to high-class products or pleasures, there are a wide range of things that we can enjoy,” said a woman at the event from Kanagawa Prefecture.