Yearender: In 2023, Hong Kong unites in holistic recovery

(Xinhua) 13:08, December 28, 2023

HONG KONG, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) -- In 2023, Hong Kong emerged from the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, marking a holistic recovery across various sectors.

"Thanks for riding with us!" Motorman Luk Man Wai said to his passengers as the tram pulled in.

Dubbed by locals as "Ding Ding," the century-old Hong Kong tram is an iconic symbol of the city.

"The road is busy as everything has returned to the way it was before the epidemic. We must pay attention to driving safety," said Luk, who has worked as a motorman for nearly 20 years.

During the epidemic, Luk drove along the track every day just as usual, but the number of passengers was pitifully small. "The world was quiet. It was so strange and sad," Luk said.

"Now, life is back to normal as people go to work and school and the streets are crowded," Luk said, adding that trams are full during peak hours.

"Most importantly, I can finally see the smile behind people's masks," Luk said.

According to the statistics of Hong Kong Tramways, the passenger capacity of trams dropped sharply during the pandemic. Now, the passenger capacity has reached 80 to 90 percent of pre-epidemic levels, with an average daily capacity of about 150,000.

The resumption of the sightseeing tram tour, especially popular among tourists, and the festive allure of party trams further underscore the city's return to normalcy.

The tourism industry, hit hard by the pandemic, witnesses a swift resurgence.

"I'm so happy to see the tourists back again!" Nicky Wong, who has been working in the tourism industry for more than 20 years, said, adding that the industry had been hard hit by the epidemic.

Since the beginning of this year, Wong's workload has skyrocketed. "Hong Kong is still a popular destination for tourists," he said.

During the pandemic, Wong once thought about quitting. However, he didn't want to give up the job he had worked for so long, so he started to promote Hong Kong online.

Wong became popular on social media platforms, with many netizens leaving him messages saying, "This is the real Hong Kong" and "I must go and visit it when I have a chance."

"Since the travel restrictions were lifted in February, many netizens asked me to show them around Hong Kong," said Wong, who mainly organized tailor-made tours.

"Now, many people are fond of in-depth tours. They wanted to learn more about the culture of Hong Kong," Wong said, adding that this trend has given his work a deeper meaning, that is, to better tell the story of Hong Kong to tourists.

During the Christmas holiday, both tourists and locals contributed to a surge in travel.

The Immigration Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government reported approximately 1.95 million arrivals and 2.13 million departures from Dec. 23 to 26.

The Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau of the HKSAR government said that as of November this year, the number of visitors to Hong Kong has exceeded 30 million. According to the Airport Authority Hong Kong, in the first 11 months of this year, the airport handled 35 million passengers, an increase of about eight times compared with the same period in 2022.

Cultural and artistic exchanges remain integral to Hong Kong's identity.

Hong Kong is a bridge of cultural and artistic exchanges between China and the world. Every year, various exhibitions are held in Hong Kong, attracting numerous tourists worldwide.

During the pandemic, the number of exhibitions decreased, but Wang Shengyu, an assistant curator of the Hong Kong Palace Museum, was not idle for a moment. She had been communicating online with experts in southwest China's Sichuan Province to confirm the details of exhibits and prepare for the special exhibition "Gazing at Sanxingdui."

"When normal travel resumed this year, I went to Sichuan at once and finally saw the cultural relics," Wang said that the detailed interpretation of the cultural relics by experts was valuable first-hand information for her.

Since "Gazing at Sanxingdui" opened on Sept. 27, it has attracted a large number of visitors. As of Dec. 22, the exhibition has received more than 170,000 visitors, with an average of about 2,400 visitors per day, which was the highest single-day attendance record achieved since the opening of the Hong Kong Palace Museum.

China's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) offers support for developing Hong Kong into an East-meets-West center for international cultural exchange. The Hong Kong Palace Museum was one of the platforms to implement this major vision, and Wang was well aware of the responsibility.

"The exhibitions we hold are bilingual so that people from different regions and different cultural backgrounds can have a better understanding of Chinese culture," Wang said.

Wang hoped that in the future, she will have more opportunities to visit different places and communicate with curatorial experts from different museums so as to plan more high-quality exhibitions and promote traditional Chinese culture to the world.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Wu Chaolan)


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