Thousands of people flocked to Hong Kong’s Avenue of Stars to enjoy a closer look at the city’s film culture as the attraction reopened on Thursday after a multimillion-dollar makeover, with the tourist industry expecting it to help stem an influx of visitors in other districts.
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Modelled on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the waterfront boulevard in Tsim Sha Tsui relaunched at 8am with more space, new designs and the handprints of 117 celebrities, following more than three years of renovation.
One popular spot was the statue of cartoon pig McDull, which just had its hooves cast. Children kept hugging the gold-coloured statue as their parents took photos to capture the joyful moments.
Civil servant Bird Yeung Sai-chuk, 38, said that because there were no barriers surrounding the statue, unlike before, he was no longer worried about his two children climbing to get closer to the character.
“I have fewer safety concerns over this,” he said. “I also feel the walkway has widened and is cleaner.”
Switching the handprints from the pavement to plaques mounted on wooden handrails along the harbourfront also won his approval as he said visitors would no longer block the walkway when taking pictures.
Mainland Chinese tourist Li Guiping, from Guizhou province, was happy to learn more about the city’s film industry during a visit with her son. The 40-year-old housewife said she used to watch a lot of Hong Kong films featuring superstars Andy Lau Tak-wah and Chow Yun-fat.
“I feel closer to them. It gets more real,” she said.
But she wished there could be more greenery to make the attraction more beautiful.
From the open to 8pm, more than 27,000 people visited the avenue, the management company said.
The walkway was a popular attraction on the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour from its opening in 2004 but it closed in October 2015 for improvement works costing more than HK$100 million.
New World Development, which manages the site, expected at least a 10 per cent rise in the number of visitors than before the closure, when more than 10 million came annually.
Hong Kong Tourism Association executive director Timothy Chui Ting-pong said the industry agreed to arrange for mainland tour groups to visit the avenue to replace part of their sightseeing itineraries, in the hope the diversion could ease overcrowding in other districts.
Some groups in the future might not take a Victoria Harbour cruise in the evening and would visit the Avenue of Stars instead, Chui told a radio programme, which could reduce the number of tourists using the service by at least a quarter.
For example, Kowloon City Ferry Pier can handle a maximum of around 4,000 passengers for the evening harbour cruise, but with the reopening of the avenue the number could fall by 1,000.
Hong Kong received a record 65.1 million tourist arrivals last year, 11.4 per cent up on 2017, including 51 million mainlanders.
The influx of mainland Chinese tourists has caused unease among Hongkongers. Concern groups have called on the government to cap the number of mainlanders allowed to visit the city, saying residents’ lives have been disrupted by them.
Travel Industry Council executive director Alice Chan Cheung Lok-yee believed the avenue would be a good alternative to harbour cruises, noting that the trips had led to a large number of tour groups waiting in Kowloon City, a residential area, before boarding.