THE first commercial site at Kai Tak (啟德) has been sold for a record price. The buyer plans to build twin commercial towers to develop a big department store, casting a vote of confidence in the SAR’s tourism and retail industries. The tender attracted eight applicants and the winner is a subsidiary of Lifestyle International Holdings Limited, operator of Sogo Department Store.
The company paid HK$7.39 billion, making it the most expensive commercial site at a price of around HK$6,733 per square foot. The price was in line with market expectations as things return to rationality.
Sogo in Causeway Bay has become the place of pilgrimage for many mainland travellers under the Individual Visit Scheme. Its below-ground branch store in Tsim Sha Tsui is much smaller. Now that its operator has won a site in Kai Tak, business can be aggressively developed and expanded in Kowloon.
Lifestyle International chairman Lau Luenhung sees the great potential in the nearby cruise terminal. Before the mainland tourist tide, cruise ships berthing at Ocean Terminal brought a lot of business to that area. Since the Kai Tak terminal opened in 2013, there has been a steady rise in the number of cruise ships and visitors. The 87 cruise arrivals expected this year are more than double last year’s. More cruise liners are making Hong Kong their home port. The terminal is expected to deal with 320,000 visitors this year, nearly 40 percent higher than last year.
Improvements on the way
WHILE the number of tourists and retail sales has been falling, visitors arriving on cruise ships are rising. With the cruise terminal not yet saturated, there is still a lot of room for business development. Cruise passengers alone cannot support the business of a commercial centre. Cruise Plaza is having financial problems.
The situation should improve when the twin towers are completed. But traffic problems in the area should be resolved earlier. As for overall visitor arrivals, figures from the Tourism Board show that the decline is gradually narrowing. The fall in retail sales is also easing, according to government data.
After losing Shenzhen visitors on “multipleentry permits”, Hong Kong’s tourism and retail industries are trying hard to expand their sources of high-spending visitors. The Kai Tak land sale shows the confi dence in the revival of the industries. It also reflects the fact that the potential of some tourism and consumer facilities has not yet been in full play, pending concerted efforts by the government and related industries.
(Published in the Sing Tao Daily on 24 November)
landmark (n) 地標
subsidiary (n) 子公司
cruise terminal 郵輪碼頭
pilgrimage ground 朝聖地
pay arrears 欠薪
twin towers 雙子塔
concerted effort 共同努力