In addition to being able to berth the world’s largest cruise ships – of up to 220,000 tonnes – Hong Kong’s glitzy, high-tech new cruise terminal at Kai Tak is making its mark as a genuinely different big-events space.
Opened in 2013, the 200,000-square-metre facility is set on the site of the old airport close to the heart of the city. It’s already hosted major shows including well-attended events for Mercedes, Audi, and Tesla, boxing tournaments and large-scale public expos visited by 30,000 or more people. Smaller very recent gatherings have included an event for the Virtuoso luxury travel network, which saw one of the check-in halls decked out as a traditional Hong Kong marketplace.
“The auto shows have been fantastic because they’re all about design, and the makers can juxtapose their new cars with the beautiful building and panoramic views of Victoria Harbour,” explains Jeff Bent (left), Managing Director of Worldwide Cruise Terminals, which operates the USD 1 billion facility. “This is true for other products that include design elements, and we expect to host more of these shows in the future.”
Audi A8 launch
Banquets are also part of the operators’ strategy. Those such as a recent banquet for an Audi A8 launch are typically set in the two check-in halls which cover 3,000 square metres each. Also on site is a large Chinese banqueting facility that seats up to 960 people, says Jeff. “This has played host to a number of fantastic dinner events, like the Operation Breakthrough charity boxing match and dinner and a Rugby Sevens dinner. We hold weddings and corporate meetings in this facility ten to 20 times a month.”
Bus services currently run to local MTR (subway) stations, and a new Kai Tak station is scheduled to open in 2019 at the end of the old runway, which will further aggregate interest and attendances. Ferry service from points around Hong Kong to the terminal is available on a charter basis. Meantime the government will auction a plot for a hotel with about 500 rooms directly adjacent to the cruise terminal later this year. Also planned is a sports stadium and water sports centre.
“It provides visa-free access for approximately 170 countries and territories, terrific hotels and great air connectivity, with multiple daily direct flights to North America, Europe and around the world.”
More links with the mainland
Connectivity will expand further with the introduction of high-speed rail service to major cities in mainland China from 2017. The terminal can also serve as an excellent platform from which to launch meetings and incentive travel via cruise ships, he adds.
“MICE is a very nice niche for Hong Kong. The [visitors] are generally affluent, educated people, and they often stay for leisure. Events bring in a lot of business travellers, and it’ll be great to add another niche to the mix of affluent leisure travellers.”
Big step for the cruise industry
Jeff believes the terminal represents a huge step forward for the cruise industry in the region, because cruise lines for years have indicated they would like to deploy more capacity in Asia; now they’re getting the facilities allowing them to do so.
Passenger numbers at Kai Tak are growing – from over 100,000 in 2014 to an expected total of over 200,000 in 2015 and more than 300,000 in 2016. Eight lines called at Kai Tak in 2014, ten are calling in 2015, and 17 have booked calls in 2016.
More and more local people are discovering the complex. Its five restaurants and shops opened last September, and its leafy rooftop parks get 4,000 visitors a day on weekends and holidays. It featured in two movies released over the Chinese New Year holiday, and will be in more forthcoming productions. And more recreational events are coming up over the summer, such as the ‘White Party,’ a major social event in Hong Kong.