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Hong Kong kicks off its Winterfest 2003 celebrations

Travel News Asia 27 November 2003

With the colourful lights of Hong Kong's tallest Christmas Wishing Tree illuminated against the stunning cityscape of Central, Hong Kong Winterfest will officially begin tomorrow. Organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), the spectacular event will feature a host of celebratory activities and special offers until 4 January to entice visitors and stimulate immediate arrivals from different markets so as to sustain the tourism revival.

The launch ceremony of Hong Kong Winterfest was performed tonight by the Secretary for Economic Development and Labour, The Hon Stephen Ip, GBS, JP and HKTB Chairman The Hon Mrs Selina Chow, GBS, OBE, JP at Statue Square, which has been transformed into a 'Christmas Wonderland'. Joined by 100 children dressed as Santa Claus, the officiating guests lit up the Christmas Wishing Tree and made a wish that everyone could be like Santa, sharing their love, joy and warm blessings during the festive winter season. 

Mrs Chow said that by combining the elements of fun, joy, love and wish-making with enticing programmes, the HKTB aimed to create a diversity of events to attract visitors of all ages and from all different markets including family and business travellers. "With visitor arrivals breaking new records at nearly 1.7 million in October, we are confident that Hong Kong WinterFest can attract over two million visitors during the event period," she remarked.

To achieve the target, the HKTB has been vigorously promoting Hong Kong Winterfest around the world and is strongly encouraging the travel trade to develop special tours. Travel agents in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Mainland China, Southeast Asia and the US have already introduced tours with Hong Kong Winterfest elements. In addition, the Board is bringing in close to 300 global trade and media representatives to experience the unique Christmas atmosphere in Hong Kong so that they can help promote such experiences in their markets.

The 12-storey high Christmas Wishing Tree, lit up tonight, is the centrepiece of the festive decorations in Statue Square and Core Central. At a height of 111 feet or 33.5 metres, the tree is decorated with more than 28,000 light bulbs in different colours and illuminated by a computerised system to create synchronised lighting and musical effects. After the 'lights up' ceremony tonight, the tree will illuminate the business district every night from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm until 4 January, with the synchronised lighting show held every 30 minutes from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm. Tonight visitors and local residents were given a preview of the show during the launch ceremony.

Besides the Christmas Wishing Tree, people can make their wishes at the 'Jingle Bells Boulevard'. Running from the Star Ferry Pier through the covered walkway and pedestrian tunnel to Statue Square, the boulevard is lined with jingling Christmas bells on both sides. Visitors can write their wishes on the wishing tags included in the Hong Kong Winterfest Activities Guide or obtained on site and hand them to the Tourism Development Assistants, who will then hang the wishing tags onto the bells.

Other decorations in the 'Christmas Wonderland' include the 'Reindeer Express' - a miniature reindeer sleigh in motion - and four colourful and festive full-sized horse sculptures. These horses, one of which is supported by the HKTB, belong to the 'Horses Across Hong Kong' promotion by the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Besides the colourful displays, a variety of street performances such as organ recitals and carol singing will add to the fun-filled, carnival spirits of the 'Christmas Wonderland'.

All these festive decorations, including the sparkling Christmas Wishing Tree and those on both sides of the harbour, will make Hong Kong's world renowned night-time vistas even more impressive. Indeed, the theme of colourful lighting will be echoed throughout Central as the neighbouring areas and major routes leading to popular tourist locations will also be adorned with festive displays and lights. Furthermore, Hong Kong Tramways will decorate eight passenger trams with special lighting and Hong Kong Winterfest displays to light up the visitors' way as they travel on Hong Kong Island.

To enhance the overall festive ambience, the HKTB is co-ordinating the most prolific appearance of Santa around town during the event period. Besides appearing in 'Santa's Lodge' within 'Christmas Wonderland', Santa will show up at Hong Kong International Airport and the Lo Wu Border Crossing to present visitors with season's greetings and the Activities Guide. On 3  December, over 60 visitors acting as Santa Claus will travel from the United States to spread joy and goodwill to visitors and local residents in Hong Kong.

Visitors to Hong Kong will not be short of exciting things to do and see as they will be presented with a galaxy of events such as the World Carnival at Tamar, the 38th Hong Kong Products Expo in Victoria Park, the traditional festive lighting in Tsim Sha Tsui East and other areas, the Hong Kong Jockey Club's 'Horses Across Hong Kong' and International Races on 14 December, and the 'Symphony of Lights' show organised by the Tourism Commission - a choreographed light and sound show that is set to become Hong Kong's new, permanent tourist attraction.

To further enrich visitors' experience, the HKTB has bundled many special offers and privileges by the catering and retail industries, including special food promotions in six Themed Food Districts, namely The Peak, Murray House in Stanley, Food Street in Causeway Bay, Lan Kwai Fong, Knutsford Terrace and the Hillwood Soho. Besides festive decorations including bunting and posters of Hong Kong Winterfest, over 100 restaurants in these districts will offer special menus for visitors. Many of them will set up 'wishing corners' and dress their staff in festive clothing to enhance the seasonal atmosphere. In addition to the dining and shopping offers, travel agents in Hong Kong have introduced four Hong Kong Winterfest tours with special discounts for in-town visitors.

The HKTB has already published a Hong Kong Winterfest Activities Guide, which includes a Shopping and Dining Privileges section, and the Passport to Amazing Offers to help visitors participate in these events. The guide and passport can be collected at the HKTB Visitor Information and Services Centres and various entry points as well as from the travel trade.

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