Broken Hong Kong: It’s never too early to start the rebuilding process.
Sure all the confusion, tsunami of miscommunications and constant moving of the goalposts to try and tackle all these rampant Covid variants don’t exactly help to motivate one to be inspired enough to think, but IF Hong Kong is serious about attracting international tourists, the building blocks need to be found now.
Some random fireworks display to commemorate another of those “special days” is hardly going to make a Big Bang of “Waaaahness” in today’s locked down city of Shaking All Over Fear. If anything, it’s going to annoy the hell out of people- unless, of course, the Hong Kong government doesn’t give a poopsie about what the people think.
There’s no point saying that we should have seen this coming, but I’ll say it anyway: Hong Kong was on shaky ground about a decade before the city’s “freedom fighters” went about bashing the city into smithereens in 2019. We had become way too arrogant, complacent and cocksure that nothing was going to change and everything was going to tick along in tickyboo “Can Do” Hong Kong fashion. The problem was that underneath all that “forward thinking”, a time bomb was ticking away. Those who had their ear to the ground, heard it- and bailed- mainly to Australia and Canada.
Let’s also not forget those days when the luxury sector, being so besotted by the big money of tourists from Mainland China, closed their shops to local customers so they could be exclusive playgrounds for Reminbi and Co. And today?
Again, and as always, it was Hong Kong greed rearing its ugly head and wanting more. Good enough is never enough. Right, Oliver?
This was a big warning sign blinking that the city was heading for The Big Fall and with it not being managed by the smartest of people. Much earlier, and in 2004, the Harbourfest concert initiative by InvestHK featuring the Stones, Prince, Santana etc to help bring tourists back to Hong Kong after winning the fight against the SARS, fell apart in an embarrassing heap of dodgy overnight companies and various individuals with dollar signs in their eyes and side deals in their hip pockets.
Everything ended with a huge report on all the inner workings behind the event and a scapegoat was found to take the blame.
Things picked up again after this blip, but by now Hong Kong was attracting “entrepreneurs” who were scammers- “celebrity chefs”, “concert promoters” with zero experience in the entertainment industry, members only clubs playing to the enormous egos of many, and everyone with a deep voice, good hair, Colgate smile and firm handshake. For way too many years, Hong Kong hasn’t had much to promote. Much of what has been offered were either dead brands or brands on life support- Ocean Park, Disneyland, Lan Kwai Fong, Wanchai, a shoppers paradise and the Soho area.
These were all looking old and decrepit. The magic had gone. So had those beautiful Eastern European escorts who were always a good barometer to know when the good times had ended. Many of them saw a club like Brix in attractive Singapore as a far more profitable financial centre than anything in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong had the tackiness and heaving desperation of girlie bars like Insomnia, Escape and Amazonia before most of those offering love for sale went online. It’s hard to imagine a night of sweating it out at Amazonia or Carnegie’s during these days of social distancing and everyone scared to fart or cough. With a ‘live’ music scene barely having a pulse or a new format to showcase younger talent, and many of the clubs and restaurants rarely attracting royal hotness, it was back to dragon-i and a few hole in the wall meeting places known by few and wanting it this way. Despite all the promises of government funded organisations like CreateHK setup to supposedly encourage and inspire the local creative community, there’s been nothing much to show for it. Does CreateHK even exist anymore? It almost always came around to a few privileged ones lining their pockets and damn the rest. They work towards making their retirement plans. All this, signalled the end of Hong Kong before the pandemic drove the final stake into the heart of the city. The question now is whether Hong Kong can make a comeback and how, if it can, is there talent good enough to make new things happen? What can happen?
Firstly, understanding that everything has changed including how people choose to live their lives. In Hong Kong, this government in particular has done such an appalling job of offering Hope that what Hong Kong has are people scared to even venture outdoors. One will ever know the number of those with mental health issues as it’s something that the government has either conveniently forgotten about or thought it would go away. It’s not going anywhere. It’s here to stay and some are going to be held responsible. So what will attract tourists to Hong Kong when somewhere like Singapore looks to have done a damn good job of surviving the ill winds that have blown through the world. Personally, unless those in Beijing allow Macau and Hong Kong to come together and have the tail wag the running dog, it’s going to take way too long for anything to get going anywhere. Macau has all the infrastructure in place to be rebooted immediately. Right now it’s just waiting there like an expensive white elephant wondering what’s going to happen next- and when. Having chased away those busy moving and ironing money around and into the West and other ports of call, Macau has all the potential and new entrepreneurs related to the late great Stanley Ho to be a combination of Monte Carlo with its casinos and hotels with Taipa ready to become the Ibiza of Asia. There’s also easy access to Hong Kong.
This partnership would give Hong Kong time to heal and for a new generation of entrepreneurs to work with their counterparts in Macau.
Forget those selfish feuds that have kept both cities from working with each other. All these old wounds and even older thinking by the usual suspects have run their course. It’s time to get smart quickly...and before time runs out.