"But how can you live and have no story to tell?" Fyodor Dostoevsky
"Where is the rickshaw pulled by Jackie Chan?"
As we reopen to the world, the official Hong Kong promo video is out. The reaction is not favourable. Stale, unimaginative and unappealing is the consensus in my immediate circle.
Comparisons with the recently released catchy South Korean promo videos have not helped.
To qualify that criticism, two of the dissenters are experienced marketing people managing international clients. Critics also took to the local press to drive home the opinion that the video manifests a 1980s feel. I’m disappointed — where is the rickshaw pulled by Jackie Chan?
None of this is very reassuring because Hong Kong remains a vibrant city of stark contrasts, with diverse opportunities and much to offer.
So what is the issue? First, the mask mandate is a drag. The fact that no one in the video is wearing a mask hasn't gone unnoticed. On Twitter, one wag suggested the absence of masks amounts to 'false advertising.’
Still, I suppose having spent three years wearing masks, tourists are probably not nostalgic to relive that hassle.
Second, it is unclear who is the target audience of the video. In the recent past, most of our tourists came from the Mainland. Unless I'm mistaken, they came for tax-free luxury shopping, a quick tour, including gawking at drunk expats in LKF and a trip to Disney. Or is that too simplistic a view?
From the anecdotal evidence of my 42 years here, hosting family and friends, it is the unexpectedly strange features of Hong Kong that appeal. To illustrate the point, some thrilled at rambling through a real-life Blade Runner neon-lit set in the alleyways of Yaumati; edgy and alien but safe because Hong Kong remains free of street crime.
Then you can have an immediate switch of tone and pace by getting easy access to our splendid country parks.
Still, the giveaway of over half a million air tickets will undoubtedly have more impact. Note that 80,000 will go to Hong Kongers and another 80,000 to Greater Bay residents.
Details of the scheme are here, although when I logged on with my mobile phone, the first pop-up message warned against importing dangerous drugs. Odd. Maybe, the tagline should read "Hi, Hong Kong!"
For sure Hong Kong's tourist industry will rebound, but in an evolved form. It is a simple case of build it, and they will come.
In the meantime, I leave you with this gem from Siouxie and the Banshees.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.