Hong Kong tourism officials have revealed that a two-minute New Year countdown video they made after the real thing was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic cost HK$9 million to make.

The big-budget virtual extravaganza – the cost of which works out at HK$68,700 tax dollars per second – came under scrutiny from lawmakers for both its content and cost at a meeting of the Legislative Council’s Panel on Economic Development on Monday.

Cheng Chung-tai. Photo: Legislative Council livestream screenshot.

After Dane Cheng, Executive Director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) revealed the cost of the video, lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai of Civic Passion expressed shock: “9 million? 9 million was spent on making that short clip?”

The video featured views of the Victoria Harbour and other Hong Kong’s landmarks, with messages such as “Happy New Year,” “Hello 2021,” and “Good health” appearing in the night sky and on different buildings in the city. The clip also combined special effects and fireworks footage to mimic the annual display that was cancelled because of Covid-19.

Civic Passion lawmaker Cheng also asked the HKTB executive director to explain “who came up with the idea,” describing the video as “offensive”.

In response, the HKTB chief told the panel that the HK$9 million was spent on producing and simulcasting the clip. An international production house was hired to design and create the video, executive director Cheng said, adding he thought the clip was crucial to maintaining Hong Kong’s international profile.

“Global exposure is very important to Hong Kong,” the head of HKTB said.

Legislator Cheng continued to criticise the two-minute clip as an “eyesore”, adding that while the pandemic might have affected the operations of the board, it was “hard to accept” the New Year countdown clip.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Edward Yau, also defended the cost, saying Hong Kong’s image would be restricted if the city “sits here and does nothing.”

The HKTB head added the countdown video was reported by 110 media organisations and had five million views. He said the clip generated promotional revenue of almost HK$60 million, but did not elaborate on the figure.

Dane Cheng. Photo: Legislative Council livestream screenshot.

“This investment is very worthwhile,” the HKTB’s Cheng said.

Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary Paul Chan earmarked HK$934 million to boost resources for the local tourism sector in the annual budget announced last month. The HKTB alone will receive HK$765 million to revive the tourism industry by running programmes such a “Holiday at Home” to enhance local consumption.

The board is also set to conduct a comprehensive review on the city’s tourism positioning and formulate new strategies in response to the epidemic.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.