After opening gates with China, the new Hong Kong campaign named ‘Hello Hong Kong’ is a tourism campaign that aims to attract tourists. The Public Relations experts reviewed the tourism campaign that the city lacks a clear strategic vision to restore its global reputation.
To promote the campaign “Hello Hong Kong’ was announced last week to include 500000 free air tickets. Many promotional videos and ads have been created that feature the city’s Chief Executive John Lee, along with some business leaders and local Cantopop stars.
After three years, Hong Kong has finally decided to overcome the COVID-19 restrictions and widespread political new security law in 2020. Now, it’s high time to settle on common grounds. It’s been a long time since Hong Kong is suffering from an economic crisis but now there is an opportunity to promote its tourism marketing again.
Efforts were made before, simultaneously a ‘Relaunch Hong Kong’ initiative followed. This project was given to a PR firm named Consulum to help rebuild the city’s valuable reputation as a business hub. The campaign has bowed down towards external activity despite its $5.7m price tag. Hong Kong Tourism Board Executive Director Dane Cheng confirmed and agreed that the “Hello Hong Kong” campaign is following the path of the previous event.
Brett Free, the Deputy Director of the Hong Kong government’s Information Services Department (ISD), who was directing ‘Relaunch Hong Kong’ told PRovoke Media that “Hello Hong Kong” was an affirmative deal per se. However, Free didn’t appreciate the campaign’s message and promotional details.
“The initial campaign videos seem more targeted at Chinese audiences, whether here, in the Mainland, or overseas, so I hope we see some specific content that would resonate better with audiences in Southeast Asia, Japan, Korea, and Western markets such as Australia, the US, Canada, Europe, etc.,” he said.
“The fact that specific details of the giveaways won’t be known for weeks after the launch of the campaign is puzzling and an opportunity lost because doing it this way fails to build on the buzz of the announcement and create some momentum — all the more puzzling when it seems from the Airport Authority’s own explanatory notes that about 175,000 tickets will be set aside to support tourism and promote HK,” he added.
Ruder Finn Asia EVP of global reputation management Charles Lankester likened the ticket giveaway to a “superficial, promotional sugar rush,” but commended the “simplicity and boldness of the idea.”
“Hong Kong has been battered in the past four years and has largely dropped off the global tourism radar,” he said. “So the idea to give away half a million tickets made sense and, because the idea was simple, it drove global headlines.”
A long-term perspective from Lankester argues that “‘Hello Hong Kong’ is not a recommended treatment regime.”
“It’s frothy, vapid, and meaningless,” said Lankester, noting, “the less said the better” about the campaign ads.
The panel can understand that the campaign planning was in progress for the past two years under the guidance of another PR specialist in the city “What exactly has the HKTB been doing for the past four years?” asked one senior PR agency figure. “They must have realized that it was only a matter of time before Hong Kong reconnected with the world.”
“What’s lacking is an emotional connection to the ‘real’ HK — the alleys of Central, the eclectic atmosphere of older districts, the beauty of HK’s natural environment, the unknown attractions such as mountain bike trails and running trails, and beaches, and creative use of the two new drawcards of M+ and Palace Museum,” added another government communications veteran. “Maybe the videos to come will feature these elements but so far, the emotional connection is missing.”
Ogilvy PR Hong Kong president Clara Shek noted that Hong Kong’s efforts to entice visitors back required “a lot of strategic deliberation.” She also pointed out that few international media had carried the news, and those that did “reminded readers of the socio-political and economic woes of Hong Kong in the past few years.”
Shek added that while global social listening sentiment was “neutral”, “netizens in China seemed to be divided, shaped by their past experiences.”
The highlight or the tricky part is the campaign was launched a few days back when Hong Kong’s largest national security trial was organized based on Hong Kong 47 pro-democracy figures who have been prosecuted. The government officials who are involved in the campaign rollout didn’t go unnoticed, including a widely criticized visual of an all-male executive lineup.
Shek believes the campaign requires a concrete strategy in light of the challenges the city has faced in recent years. “Hong Kong’s perception has changed or eroded a great deal over the past few years,” she said. “What are the new compelling reasons for visiting this city? Who are the visitors that we would like to attract, what do they care about and what motivates them? Hong Kong as a destination needs to answer these fundamental questions and communicate its new positioning in a creative, modern and authentic manner that connects with the hearts and minds of the targeted visitors.”
Even so, Lankester believes the Hong Kong Tourism Board still has “a golden opportunity to plan how they will sustainably build Brand Hong Kong over the next decade.”
“By all means run the current campaign for a while and (please) track sentiment and find out what people in Hong Kong and globally actually think about the work,” he said. “But quickly look outwards and see what other iconic destinations are doing marketing-wise. South Korea, Australia, and Japan would be good places to start. Hong Kong also deserves the brightest marketing talent working for it – go out and find it, hire it, and put it to work. My hope? In 2024 everyone is in awe of Hong Kong’s global marketing campaign. Not sniggering about it.”
- Published By Team Hongkong Journalist