Walk in Hong Kong provides immersive cultural tours through which tourists can have a glimpse of authentic Hong Kong culture. Co-operated by Paul Chan and Olivia Tang, Walk in Hong Kong develops cultural tours that take visitors to corners in Hong Kong that are seldom visited by travellers, providing chances for visitors to immerse themselves in the local environment. Each tour has its own theme. For example, there is Good Evening Kowloon tour that takes you to the heartland of Yau Ma Tei and Jordan. There are also authentic home tour Knock Knock, Sham Shui Po tour that tells you the stories of the grassroots of Hong Kong, and Polaroid Film Tour that showcases the famous scenes in Hong Kong films.
Exploring the industry from multiple perspectives
Walk in Hong Kong was founded in August 2013. This year, the cultural tour provider has officially turned five years old. “I founded Walk in Hong Kong because I enjoyed exploring the city’s culture. At that time, there was a lack of quality cultural tours in Hong Kong. Plus, conventional tourist tours had quality issues during that period. Scandals like tour guides ripping off the tourists were not uncommon on the news,” Paul said, explaining what drove him to kickstart Walk in Hong Kong. “It occurred to me that it’s time to do something to improve the situation. I wanted to build a competent and professional team that dedicates to cultural tours and operate it with a standardised corporate management model.”
At present, the core management team of Walk in Hong Kong has around six members, none of them are from the traditional tourism industry. Paul, for example, studied law in college and had worked in a government department for several years. From his perspective, to innovate tourism projects, it is important to have team members from different professional backgrounds. He believes that such diversity will enable them to explore this particular industry from different perspectives. “We have writers, media professionals, scholars specialised in historical architectures, and film critics in our team. This allows us to develop in-depth tours under different themes. We attribute our competence to this diversity,” Paul said.
Active promotion and diverse business services
Besides promotions on social media, Walk in Hong Kong also penetrates the market through different channels. “We have been launching tours with rich cultural significance and unique themes. This has been attracting media coverage ever since our establishment,” Paul introduced, saying that a cultural brand should rely on its content to attract consumers. “Our team members with different background are often invited to media platforms to share their take on cultural experiences. The positive exposure we get from cultural media helps us gain traction through our content.”
Up till now, Walk in Hong Kong is no longer a mere tourist tour provider. The team has been developing several other services and activities. Businesses have also been approaching them for cooperation. “In our third year, companies started to invite us to cooperate on developing extra curriculum activities or programmes for them. Our clients include government departments, universities, listed companies, and hotels, etc. Our brand’s business started to diversify because of the new opportunities,” Olivia said.
Systematic training for tour guides
Walk in Hong Kong’s tours appeal to potential consumers and business clients for being in-depth, local and authentic. The tours generally take around two to three hours, with the fee ranging from HK$300 to HK$650. According to the brand’s statistics, most of its clients have a good education background and deep interest in culture. Walk in Hong Kong’s clients include college students, professionals from the cultural industry, and even college professors, etc. Most of the clients are from the west, while there are also a large number of clients who are local residents of Hong Kong or from Singapore. Walk in Hong Kong’s user profile naturally generates a higher threshold for the tour guides. “We invest a lot of resources in screening potential guides and providing relevant trainings. Besides their bilingual communication skills, we also need to train them on the way they speak. We also value their personalities and their understandings of culture. Tour guides that pass our screening will be arranged to receive systematic training at the training center set up by Walk in Hong Kong,” Olivia explained. “After passing the training, they will become our official guides. I hope that our tour guides’ knowledge in the local culture and their professionalism can inspire visitors that sign up for our tours to have their own understanding of the city.”
Commercialisation essential to cultural tours for sustainable development
According to Paul, old buildings in Hong Kong do not stand long as private real estate companies dominate the market. Under this circumstance, many old shops with historical and cultural significance have vanished in the city. “We are hoping to bring the most valuable sides out of the old buildings. But the most valuable thing─Hong Kong’s history─is very vulnerable,” Paul said, revealing that he is planning to bring the cultural tours into other fields like cultural heritage preservation projects and the cultural and creative industry to build a business model that can integrate different industries and organisations.
“The government and NGOs often organise tours for free. It can promote the local culture but it is not sustainable. These tours rely on public funding or donation to work. If the money runs out then these programmes die too,” Paul said. “We need to combine cultural tours with the tourism industry into a business model so as to bring the market into the field of cultural tours. Only in this way can we achieve sustainable development for cultural tours.”