“Adventures with Purpose” host Richard Bangs (center) filmed in Hong Kong during the Chinese New Year. // © 2010 Adventures with Purpose
At a time when many travel destinations are turning to social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to launch their consumer marketing campaigns, the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) is taking a somewhat different approach. Using public television as its medium, the HKTB has partnered with acclaimed travel writer Richard Bangs, host of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) series “Adventures with Purpose,” and with travel wholesaler United Vacations to showcase and enable consumers to book their next vacation to Hong Kong.
The one-hour “Adventures with Purpose” episode, which debuts in early July, focuses on Bangs’ “Quest for the Dragon” as he travels throughout Hong Kong’s cityscapes and countryside in search for the symbolism and meaning behind the dragon, a revered mythological creature in Chinese culture. The show was filmed earlier this year, in February 2010, coinciding with Hong Kong’s annual Chinese New Year celebrations, when the auspicious dragon figures most prominently.
The episode’s major themes — from festivals and martial arts to nature and cuisine — and its accompanying vacation packages, said William B. Flora, HKTB Director-USA, highlight the cultural authenticity and adventurous aspects of travel to Hong Kong.
“The key driver of Hong Kong is its authentic cultural appeal,” Flora told TravelAge West. “Authenticity is the hot button these days, and what this integrative marketing program does is to show consumers what a unique culture Hong Kong has and what an adventuresome place it is.”
Flora, who has had an extensive 30-year advertising and marketing background, said that the idea to launch such an integrative marketing campaign stemmed from a desire to deliver “high impact and high efficiency” while keeping “consumers and travel partners at the forefront.” He added that this type of marketing campaign — combining a television program with bookable vacation packages — was something that agents can expect to see more of in the future from the HKTB.
“We [HKTB] approached Richard [Bangs] about doing an episode on Hong Kong and he was interested because it was a different type of adventure than what he was used to filming — more cultural and metropolitan but also about the natural beauty of Hong Kong, too,” said Flora. “When people can actually see and experience a place, as they do by watching this program, it creates the desire for them to want to go there.”
Following the end of the episode, viewers are encouraged to book their own “Quest for the Dragon” with a customizable vacation package from United Vacations.
“United Vacations is a valued travel partner of ours and is very strong in Asia,” Flora added.
All packages, which are commissionable to agents, include roundtrip trans-Pacific airfare on United Airlines from San Francisco; accommodations for five nights with daily breakfast, based on double occupancy; roundtrip airport transfers; an Afternoon Kowloon Cultural & Life tour; an evening cocktail cruise featuring the Victoria Harbour “Symphony of Lights” and a seafood dinner at Lei-Yue-Min fishing village; and the option to book additional tours of the city, Lantau Island, Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park theme park. The packages are available for travel dates from August 2010 to March 2011, and package prices start from $1,469 per person.
And although the past two years have been rather turbulent for travel destinations worldwide, Hong Kong included, Flora is optimistic and said that tourism numbers to Hong Kong have been trending upward in 2010.
“Hong Kong is doing very well,” he said. “We’ve seen a 9 percent increase in U.S. visitor numbers from last year, and I think that the U.S. consumer is becoming more confident. I think that consumer confidence is the big key.”
This year, the HKTB’s main marketing campaign has focused on “Festive Hong Kong 2010” and the tourism board has devoted its resources toward promoting the region’s numerous festivals held throughout the year. Flora noted how, in particular, Hong Kong’s Wine and Dine Festival, held this year from Oct. 28-31, and the subsequent Wine & Dine month would be of keen interest to U.S. travelers.
“The festival takes place on the West Kowloon Promenade, and wineries from around the world will be gathered,” Flora said. “The event was so popular last year that, this year, it has been extended from three days to four days.”
Following Hong Kong’s repeal of imported wine tariffs in 2008, it has since become the number-one wine auction city in the world, recently overtaking New York City in dollar volume. Wine & Dine month, taking place in November, allows clients to enjoy special deals and promotions from dining establishments throughout Hong Kong.
Whether travelers choose to visit Hong Kong for wine and cuisine or for having watched “Adventures With Purpose,” Flora remains confident in Hong Kong’s diverse appeal.
“Hong Kong is a place where you can experience the best of Asia in a very sophisticated city,” Flora said. “It’s great for first-timers and for those who have been there before. No matter how many times you’ve gone, there’s always something new to discover.”