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English>>China Society

Incentives to boost HK, mainland ties

By Kahon Chan in Hong Kong  (China Daily)

08:23, September 13, 2012

More cruises and college exchanges aid understanding on both sides

Hong Kong's tourism and education sectors are poised to get a shot in the arm from the central government's latest cooperation programs, while experts in both fields say obstacles remain.

The measures, aimed at further strengthening the already close economic ties between the mainland and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, were announced just before President Hu Jintao arrived in Hong Kong in late June on his second visit to the city as head of state.

Under the latest incentives, mainland cruise passengers will be able to board a Hong Kong-based cruise liner and sail directly to Japan or South Korea with an intermediate port call in Taiwan. They can later head straight home after reaching their destination, provided they stay aboard the same vessel.

Michael Wu Siu-ying, chairman of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, believes that more cruise ships will make Hong Kong their home port in the future, and this will benefit the tourism sector.

The new policy will also provide a big boost to the soon-to-be-completed cruise terminal at the former Kai Tak Airport site in Kowloon Bay. The terminal's first berth is expected to be ready for the first scheduled cruise visit there when Mariner of the Seas comes to Hong Kong in mid-2013. Fourteen more cruise-ship stopovers have also been booked from October 2013 to April 2014.

However, neither of the operators of these ships plans to make Hong Kong a home port nor operates the Hong Kong-Taiwan-Japan-Korea route.

Jeff Bent, cruise projects director at Worldwide Flight Services — a global airport services organization that has been operating in Hong Kong since 1998 — said that cruise lines frequently book berths at destination cities about two years in advance, so it's still too early for itinerary planners to respond to the new facilities.

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