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Hong Kong PolyU presents TOUROMETER

Prof Cathy Hsu, Principal Investigator and SHTM Chair Professor presenting findings of a study on “A Decision Support System for Post-COVID Tourism Policy Formation and Monitoring”.

A decision support system through social listening for tourism policy formation and monitoring.

The School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) announced the findings of a study on “A Decision Support System for Post-COVID Tourism Policy Formation and Monitoring”. The study developed a cloud-based social listening platform, TOUROMETER, to measure Hong Kong residents’ sentiment towards visitors and tourism development as well as visitors’ sentiment towards Hong Kong tourism.

Instead of using traditional measures such as classification of attitudes as either positive or negative to estimate support for tourism, this project introduces a more refined concept, ambivalence, that can capture individuals’ simultaneously held positive and negative views. The platform offers a tool for policymakers to monitor the ambivalence of relevant stakeholders towards tourists and tourism development, as well as an effective channel for public engagement to help achieve collaborative planning.

Spearheaded by Prof. Cathy Hsu, Principal Investigator and SHTM Chair Professor, the project was funded by the Public Policy Research Funding Scheme, Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office. The project employed rigorous research methodologies, including the analysis of longitudinal news and social media big data through meta machine learning, and statistical modeling using economy, environment, tourism and census data.

Over the past four years, social unrest and COVID-19 have imposed unprecedented setbacks on Hong Kong tourism. The challenges, however, signify opportunities for reviewing past experience in order to shed light on more effective policymaking in the future. In particular, policies to attract Mainland Chinese tourists, the dominant source market representing 78% of arrivals to Hong Kong in 2018, and to spearhead a healthy post-COVID tourism recovery deserve holistic consideration. “Since the launch of the Individual Visit Scheme in 2003, the huge influx of Mainland Chinese tourists has facilitated exponential tourism growth but simultaneously imposed a heavy burden on local lives, which has intensified tensions between Hong Kong residents and tourists from the Mainland,” Prof. Hsu said. “A lesson to be learned is that understanding and monitoring residents’ and visitors’ sentiments is critical for effective policy formation and timely amendments to avoid detrimental and irreversible conflicts.”

Members of the research team: (From left) Dr Nan Chen, Dr Christine Zeng, Prof Cathy Hsu, Mr Gary Tan and Mr Ziyang Zhan with Dean Kaye Chon (third from right) at the public seminar.

Developed by the project team, the TOUROMETER serves as a public policy decision support system to understand public voices in a timely and ongoing manner. The project has collected sentiment data from Hong Kong residents and Mainland Chinese tourists on popular social media platforms (e.g., Twitter and Ctrip) and 19 major newspapers in Hong Kong from 2003 onward.

The results show that:

  1. Hong Kong residents’ dispositions based on news stories and those on social media posts are significantly different. Positive news stories do not necessarily mean positive social media postings. In general, resident disposition on social media is less positive and more ambivalent to Mainland Chinese tourists and tourism development than that found in the news.
  2. Hong Kong residents’ disposition to Hong Kong tourism development is significantly correlated with their disposition towards Mainland Chinese tourists. The more ambivalent residents are to Mainland Chinese tourists, the more ambivalent they are to tourism development.
  3. The economy, environment and quality of life have significant influences on Hong Kong residents’ dispositions towards Mainland Chinese tourists and tourism development. Specifically, the higher the GDP per capita and the worse air pollution experienced, the less positive and more ambivalent residents are to Mainland Chinese tourists; on the other hand, the higher the unemployment rate, the more positive and less ambivalent are views of Mainland Chinese tourists and tourism development.
  4. Mainland Chinese tourists’ perception of Hong Kong tourism is significantly correlated with the Hong Kong economy, environment and resident sentiment. The better the economy and environment, the more positive the tourist perception of Hong Kong; however, the more negative the resident sentiment, the less positive the Mainland Chinese tourists’ perception is of Hong Kong tourism.

It is, therefore, important to balance the interests of residents and tourists to achieve social sustainability. As a useful tool for various tourism stakeholders, the TOUROMETER allows individuals’ opinions to be heard in a timely manner so that they can be used to inform public policymaking; industry practitioners to recognise social issues, and manage risks and opportunities effectively; and government to monitor public opinions holistically, and formulate or amend policies timely. When the sentiment trends below an acceptable level, policies can be devised or revised to address the issue. The factors identified as influencing residents’ and tourists’ perceptions of Hong Kong tourism should also be monitored. Appropriate policy measures can then be taken to cultivate positive and reduce negative sentiments.

With the re-opening of the border between Hong Kong and Mainland China, the Hong Kong tourism industry is ushering in spring after a long winter. It is an opportune time to balance various stakeholders’ interests for long-term competitiveness, as only where there are happy hosts, are there happy guests. “This study provides important information to better enable the Hong Kong government to effectively support the sustainable development of Hong Kong’s tourism industry” Prof. Hsu remarked. “The SHTM is proud to be able to support the development of the tourism industry in this significant way.”

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