A Hong Kong lawmaker has called on authorities to look into promoting “red tourism” destinations to appeal to cross-border visitors, adding that it was “worth retracing the footsteps” of well-known mainland figures who have passed through the city.

Legislative Council Complex
The Legislative Council complex in Hong Kong. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Lau Chi-pang made the suggestion during a Legislative Council meeting on Wednesday.

“All along, we’ve used food, shopping, theme parks… to attract tourists,” the pro-Beijing legislator said. “But now, since the reopening of the border [with mainland China], we’ve seen that the interests of tourists to Hong Kong – especially mainland tourists – are quite diverse.”

The lawmaker referred to tourists posing with McDonald’s fast food near signs for Macdonnell Road in the Mid-Levels neighbourhood, and visiting the former police station at Yau Ma Tei for selfies. In recent weeks, the two destinations have reportedly been popularised as places to visit in Hong Kong on Xiaohongshu, a mainland social media app.

“What I want to raise is something officials may not have considered – red historical spots,” Lau said.

“In the past, top mainland political figures, scholars and very famous people have come to Hong Kong,” he added. “Some stayed for a long time [while] some were just passing through. But it’s worth retracing their footsteps.”

tourist golden week victoria harbour tourism visitor
Tourists in Hong Kong on May 2, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

In mainland China, red tourism – referring to landmarks with historical significance to the Chinese Communist Party – has been promoted by authorities in a bid to boost the country’s tourism industry. According to the Chinese government, in 2016, over 300 sites nationwide, from museums to memorial parks, are featured on the list.

In response, Undersecretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Raistlin Lau said the bureau was currently in discussions about the topic.

‘Good Hong Kong stories’

Hong Kong has seen an influx of mainland Chinese visitors over the past few months since the resumption of quarantine-free travel in January – a relaxation that came after nearly three years of strict Covid-19 rules.

Over the Labour Day holiday, an extended national break from April 29 to May 3, the city saw around 14,000 tourists come to Hong Kong as part of mainland tour groups, Lau said.

The relaxation of travel rules has also seen the return of budget mainland tours to the city. According to local media reports, tourists joining some of these tours have been eating at low-cost or fast food restaurants.

Mainland tourists To Kwa Wan Hung Hum tourism
Mainland Chinese tourists in Hong Kong on March 29, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Lawmaker Jeffrey Lam asked what the government could do about such “unsatisfactory” tour groups.

“Over Golden Week, we saw many tour groups arrange for tourists to eat at the same restaurants, to eat the same food. We always say we need to tell good Hong Kong stories. How can we make sure that [tourists] go back and tell good Hong Kong stories?” Lam said.

Lau replied that the “most important thing” was that their tour experiences matched what was promised to them.

“As for the specific arrangements, it depends on how much… [they can] pay and what they hope to see,” he added.

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Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.