HONG KONG – Hong Kong will start building its new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal next year in the hopes of developing into a premier cruise hub in the region.
But government officials dismissed fears that Hong Kong’s ambitions will be overshadowed by Singapore, whose new cruise facility, will be completed first.
There was plenty of fanfare during the groundbreaking ceremony of Hong Kong’s long-awaited Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. The new cruise terminal will boast two side-by-side berths and construction is expected to kick off in 2010.
Donald Tsang, Hong Kong Chief Executive, said: “The new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal will mark a milestone in the development of Hong Kong’s cruise tourism.”
Once completed, the facility will be able to berth the world’s largest cruise vessel of 220,000 tonnes.
Hong Kong is also banking on the central government’s new policy to allow mainland tour groups travelling to Taiwan to take cruise ships based in Hong Kong.
The government is hoping the new measure will bring Hong Kong’s cruise tourism industry to a new level. But it has not all been smooth sailing.
The site of Hong Kong’s former airport has been left vacant for years as the government failed to find an appropriate tender from the private sector for the project.
The government has finally decided to fund, design and build the terminal, and lease it to a cruise terminal operator. It has yet to finalize cost figures as it is waiting for the Legislative Council’s approval for funding.
Some said the delays mean Hong Kong will miss the boat. Competitor Singapore is expected to complete its International Cruise Terminal first, in 2011.
But government officials brushed off concerns Hong Kong will be overshadowed by its regional rival.
Rita Lau, Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, said:
“We should be aware of the developments around the region and the fact that each city or each economic entity may have its own plan for development.
“The important thing for Hong Kong and the tourism industry is to really try to enhance and strengthen our strengths so that we remain a very competitive and attractive tourist destination, not only within this region but also around the world.”
The first berth is expected to start operation in 2013.