“The Metropolis of the Far East”: Tourism and Recovery in Postwar Hong Kong

10 Feb 2022 04.30 PM - 06.00 PM Alumni, Current Students, Industry/Academic Partners, Prospective Students, Public
Organised by:
Florence Mok

The end of a war hardly seems like the right time for even thinking about traveling. Yet tourism played an important role in recovery across the globe after World War Two. Nations and colonies struggled to rebuild their economies, including by encouraging tourism. People who earlier had been trying to kill each other were now visiting each other. Apart from generating much-needed revenue, government and business planners hoped this “invisible export” or “hidden industry” would help shape a new international order by encouraging mutual understanding and world peace through travel.

This talk examines how Hong Kong became a major tourist destination after the war, with tourism becoming one of the colony’s most important industries and its largest source of foreign exchange. Especially compared with countries such as Britain and Japan, however, there was little official interest in boosting tourism. The local press played an active role in promoting tourism – if not always by directly encouraging it, then by providing a space for discussing the value of tourism, by drawing attention to tourism elsewhere, and by announcing the arrivals of passenger ships and airplanes. But at least until the establishment of the Hong Kong Tourist Association in 1957, the rise of tourism owed less to local efforts and more to changes beyond Hong Kong’s initiative or control, including the expansion of civil aviation, the growth of the American travel industry, the reopening of Japan to tourism under the Allied occupation, and the Korean War.

About the Speaker:
Professor John Carroll
Department of History
The University of Hong Kong