Application of augmented reality is expected to stimulate young mainland tourists' desire to explore ways to have fun in Hong Kong. (Photo provided to China Daily)
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region tourism officials are tapping into the application of augmented reality technology to attract young people from the mainland to visit the city.
The Hong Kong Tourism Board has teamed up with Hong Kong-born and South Korea-based rapper Jackson Wang to create an AR "magic book" that features 3-D animation, video clips and AR interactivity.
The online book presents a vivid picture of what tourists can expect to do in the city when it comes to entertainment, sport, gourmet food and art experiences.
"The AR book is a bold attempt by the Hong Kong tourism board in brand communications," says Becky Ip, the deputy executive director of the tourism board.
"Those born in the 1980s and '90s have become the main force behind mainland consumption, and we need to cater to their preferences as much as possible," she adds.
This new form of tourism promotion aims to stimulate young people's desire to explore interesting ways to have fun in Hong Kong.
"Take art as an example. Hong Kong has a lot of galleries worth visiting," Ip says.
Many of the world's most renowned art exhibitions, such as Art Basel, as well as various film festivals, would make for an artsy experience for any visitor to the city, in addition to its highly developed retail experience, she says.
Using the AR approach, travelers can enjoy the vicarious experience of seeing Hong Kong from a local perspective, following in rapper Wang's footsteps as he encounters the unique thrills and spills that the city has to offer, according to the tourism board.
The phone app allows people to interact with Wang through AR games and take virtual photos with the celebrity.
"Jackson Wang is one of the most influential figures among Hong Kong's new generation, and his growing experience and familiarity with various scenes of the city will offer up the most authentic experience of Hong Kong to mainland consumers," Ip says.
Travelers can access the AR book via mainstream social media, including their WeChat or Sina Weibo accounts from May 10 to 31. Interactions with Wang are made possible through scanning themed posters in the online book via Alipay.
The tourism board is also working with China's biggest online travel agency Ctrip, Hong Kong Ocean Park, Cathay Pacific Airways and Hong Kong Disneyland to send Sina Weibo users gifts to help promote tourism.
Hong Kong has witnessed a steady increase in the number of mainland visitors in recent years. Last year, the city unveiled a series of favorable travel deals, from air tickets and accommodation to shopping and eating, as part of its plans to mark the 20th anniversary of its return to China.
The city received 44 million visits from the Chinese mainland last year, an increase of 4 percent over the previous year.
During the first three months of this year, visit numbers grew 12.7 percent year-on-year to 12 million. Travelers aged between 26 and 35 make up the biggest group of visitors to Hong Kong, according to Alibaba's travel platform Fliggy.
Parent-child experiences featuring museums, Disneyland, Noah's Ark and child-themed restaurants have also been included in travel packages to cater to the needs of young couples with children, which have also been a force to be reckoned with in Hong Kong's tourism market, Ip says.
To spice up the visitor experience, Hong Kong is also planning to develop new scenic spots in 18 districts for travelers. Sham Shui Po will be the first one to be rolled out later this year. Locals will lead tourists deep into local communities, exploring its many out-of-the-ordinary sights, IP says.
With the opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high-speed rail link, Ip is optimistic about the future of Hong Kong's tourism market.
She expects the number of global visits to the city would soon break the 60 million mark, with 75-80 percent of these coming from the mainland.
To date, Hong Kong has offered 11 tourism new experiences for visitors to choose from, and the new AR approach offers them a new way to choose which one may be closest to their heart, Ip says.