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  PlanetArk 22 Mar 07
Hong Kong Takes Some of the Rap for Pollution

Straits Times 21 Mar 07
Air pollution in HK scaring off tourists
Tourism numbers in January drop for the first time in years

HONG KONG - NEWS reports of chronic air pollution are putting Hong Kong's reputation as a top Asian tourist destination at risk, travel industry players warn. With tourism numbers down in the early part of this year, image-makers are battling to restore travellers' confidence in the city.

Hong Kong's worsening pollution is due to smog, mostly from neighbouring southern China's industrialised Pearl River Delta region.

Surveys by green groups show that visitors are increasingly suffering from smog-related illnesses. Complaints about the poor air quality are also on the rise.

The problem has become so bad that it is making news overseas, posing a headache for Hong Kong's tourism industry.

'Pollution is the worst publicity we can get,' said Mr Franz Donhauser, chairman- elect of the Hong Kong chapter of the International Association of Travel and Tourism Professionals, a worldwide trade concern group. 'It is something that business people, hotel guests and journalists are mentioning to us more and more,' said Mr Donhauser, who is also general manager of Hong Kong's five-star Island Shangri-La Hotel.

Hong Kong was reminded of its increasingly negative reputation last week when posh cruise company Cunard's flagship Queen Mary 2 paid a visit during its maiden voyage around the world.

Controversy arose when it emerged that British archaeologist John Reich, an on-board adviser to passengers on what to do during port calls, recommended that the well-heeled travellers stay away from the city.

'Hong Kong is extremely polluted,' he was quoted as telling passengers, before running down the city's top tourist attractions. 'There is no point going up The Peak as you will see nothing. Of course the view is sometimes obscured by fog,' he reportedly said of the Victoria Peak, which on clear days offers the best view of the harbour.

Mr Reich's comments sparked public outrage and dealt a further blow to the industry which was already reeling from January figures that showed tourist arrivals had dipped for the first time in years.

The number of visitors dropped 1 per cent year-on-year to 2.17 million.

'We take very seriously what is said about Hong Kong,' said Hong Kong Tourism Board spokesman Cynthia Leung, whose organisation spends millions of dollars each year promoting the city to tourism agencies around the world. 'We monitor publications and reports and where we feel what has been written is unfair, we write and ask for clarification,' she said.

Mr Reich later explained that he had not intended to insult Hong Kong with his lecture.

However, it was not the first time the pollution issue had given overseas travellers a bad impression of the city. In 2005, the government reacted angrily when a travel column in a leading British newspaper warned visitors to avoid Hong Kong as its air posed a serious health risk.

And last year, foreign chambers of commerce, including the powerful British and American chambers, warned that executives from their home countries had expressed concerns about setting up operations in Hong Kong because of the pollution. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PlanetArk 22 Mar 07
Hong Kong Takes Some of the Rap for Pollution

CHINA: March 22, 2007 HONG KONG - Hong Kong's air pollution is caused more often by local power stations and vehicles than by factories in southern China, a study released on Wednesday shows, overturning a commonly held belief.

By volume, most air pollution in crowded Hong Kong may come from China, but vehicles, ships and power plants in the former British colony are the main source of pollution for most of the time, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the Civic Exchange think tank says.

Hong Kong's worsening air pollution has become a growing source of concern in recent years.

Both local coal-fired power plants and thousands of Hong Kong-owned factories in the Pearl River Delta have been blamed.

A government sponsored joint study in 1999 that showed that the southern province of Guangdong accounted for 80 percent of the region's emissions.

"More than 50 percent of the time, emissions from local sources dominate the air pollution in Hong Kong," said Alexis Lau at the university.

The government said air quality was at the top of its agenda. "We have imposed emission caps on power companies since 2005 and will progressively tighten the caps," it said.

Related articles on Singapore: Haze
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