Hong Kong works overtime to clean up tourism industry's image

After a series of scandals involving questionable tour practices, Hong Kong's tourism industry seems to be back on track for 2010 with visitors from mainland China in particular flooding south into the city.

Tourism chiefs are also working overtime to make the city more attractive to visitors, with an Asia-wide "cosplay'' contest the latest in a line of special events sponsored by the local tourism authority.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board-Animax Hong Kong Halloween Treats Cosplay Contest has been targeted at the trend among Asia's lovers of all things animated to dress up in the fashion of the cartoon heroes. It has offered a three-day all-expenses-paid trip to Hong Kong for its three winners - to be announced at the weekend - and has so far attracted close to 1,000 hopefuls.

"The zeal and enthusiasm of Asia's cosplayers and bloggers will be a great catalyst to the fun quotient of the Hong Kong Halloween Treats," a HKTB spokesman said.

Hong Kong has arranged a month-long celebration linked to Halloween on October 31, with food and wine promotions and parties being held across town. Details can be found on the HKTB website (http://www.discoverhongkong.com ).

There is also coming up the city's own Wine and Dine Month (October 28-November 30) as the tourism industry seeks to bounce back from the widespread international coverage that followed complaints from tourists - from mainland China in particular - about how they were being treated by Hong Kong-based tour guides.

The city has since set up a "quality and honest'' guide to local tours through its tourism board and the results seem to be working - and fast.

China's week-long National Day holidays drew to a close Friday and the HKTB has reported visitor numbers from China have risen 37 percent, year on year.

Initial figures show close to 230,000 mainland Chinese visitors heading into Hong Kong on the first two days of the holiday - the previous Friday and Saturday - with the HKTB reporting close to a quarter of those visitors had signed up to tours under the new scheme, which cost between five and 10 percent more to ensure better quality accommodation, food, transport and entertainment.

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