Fail forward! To emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis…
Written by Emily Wu
We talk to Paul Chan Chi-yuen, Co-founder & CEO of Walk in
Hong Kong, about rebuilding tourism in Hong Kong
“Hi everyone, Welcome to “Hidden Facilities in Our Harbour” Tour. We are glad to see over 120 participants joining us today…”
There is a catastrophic drop in tourism in Hong Kong, down 99.7 percent year on year, as the city fights the coronavirus. Both visitors and residents are almost kept away from all kinds of physical entertainment and social gatherings when the city is mired in its first recession in a decade.
Having such promising number of participants in a tour is a rare scene – this time, a virtual walking tour.
“I have never seen such challenging time for Hong Kong tourism industry since 2013 when I first started my company. We are not hit hard by the civil unrest, but Covid-19.” The pandemic forced many Hong Kong travel agents to close down last year, while others slash staff. “Not knowing what will happen next can be profoundly debilitating, but the uncertainties have pushed us to look for better alternatives,” said Paul Chan Chi-yuen, Co-founder & CEO of Walk in Hong Kong, a local tour company.
The former political assistant to Secretary for Food and Health got to meet many people from all walks of life and witnessed different facets of our hometown.
Paul once talked to his staff when their local tours were put on a halt, “Just in case we cannot continue our local immersive walking tour business anymore, we have to do something else. We can all be private tutors or do whatever we can with our skills.”
Multi-talented people are the ones who can survive and thrive through change. Walk in Hong Kong exemplifies the concept of an educational and fun experiential tour that share with people a unique and extensive history of Hong Kong. Within adversity lies opportunity – Paul and his team demonstrated a speedy response to fundamentally changed customer needs. “How many times do Hong Kongers travel in each month? How frustrating it is for them to stay in Hong Kong with no chance to travel on plane?” Paul saw the opportunities to bring people out of their homes by starting to organise virtual tours that led families and their kids to visit and enjoy the Victoria Harbour front – They had Joey Leung exploring the life of fishermen, Michelle Loo checking out the up-and-coming foodie hunts and more.
Supported by a young and dynamic team, Paul said he has the responsibility to explore daily advancement and ways to improve. ‘When we had our first online experiential tour, we faced a lot of technical issues – bad sound due to the windy environment along the harbour front. “I have spent a lot of time studying how to make the sound better in our live online tours. I can now put together a selection of equipment that is capable of making quality recordings.’ In their latest online tour, the team even introduced more interactive games and simultaneous English interpretation that welcome overseas tourists or local expats to join.
Businessman or entrepreneur should foresee the challenges ahead of them and get ready to adapt to new changes. The Generation Z are very creative and they are willing to do things in their own way, but how should they start own business or get the first bucket of money? They need to rethink the positioning of their business model.
Its’ now more important than ever to understand and execute seamlessly on the use of cutting edge technologies. “Building a quality prototype is the only way to gain others’ trust,” This is Paul’s reminder to those who have just started or thinking to run their own business. People network is key.
Every connection counts, and the best networks often lead to the best outcomes.
Paul and his team have managed rise to the challenge implementing virtualisation that rival physical tours to counter the “tourism winter” and diversify the business. With Paul’s connection, Walk In Hong Kong has kept collaborating with different corporate partners and coming up with new ideas for online happenings.
“Never afraid to fail and try out methods that have not be done before by anyone”, then ask yourself “Are you ignoring trends that could shake up your business? It’s inevitable for a business to change or upgrade itself every 2 or 3 years.”
In both his physical and virtual tours, Walk In Hong Kong introduces the traditional, local industries and their practitioners to the tourists. In this economy rebuilding stage, some of these small local shops are trying their best to preserve their traditions in an unconventional way to revive the beauty of the old by adding new colours to it. Some of them turn their products into art pieces or accessories and fit the young people’s market. “I could see that there are many interesting old shops in HK that crossover with the up-and-coming artists, which in turn bring them new insights to modernise their business model,” said Paul.
Apart from the well researched, immersive walking tours, the team leaped and brought even more social values through their projects.
“I have never imagined that we could bring the elderly who are ‘locked’ inside the Old People’s Home to meet their family and explore the world through our lens!”
“Thank you so much for all that you have done.” The compliment from our participants is definitely the best reward I have after starting my own business.
Changes are still going on every day. Paul and his team are cooking up new cross-country collaboration that can bring Hong Kong people out to Japan, Taiwan or other places of the world to meet and chat with people there.