Food tourism is an important issue for many destinations to attract visitors and differentiate destinations association with specific cuisine, it is regarded as a chance to generate added value from tourism (Hall & Gössling, 2016). The Destination Management Organization (DMO) indicated the richness of Hong Kong's local and international food has become a main competitive advantage of the city. Cuisine can be a driving force of culture and help Hong Kong to find its own position in the global tourism market (Enright & Newton, 2004, 2005). Okumus, Okumus & McKercher (2007) further disclosed that 15% of all marketing tools in Hong Kong are allocated to the promotion of cuisines. The Hong Kong Planning Department released “Northbound Southbound 2007” by making a clear statement that the significant reasons for visitors to visit Hong Kong is to tasting different cuisines. This shows that Hong Kong's cuisines are playing an active role in creating a high-quality traveling experience and encouraging visitors to visit again (Kivela & Crotts, 2005, 2006).
Dim sum is the most representable cuisine in Hong Kong. Many locals love to go to the Cantonese dim sum restaurant for drinking tea and eating dim sum, and this becomes part of their eating culture. Hong Kong's dim sum cuisines can be a basic differentiator, making visitors feel closer to the locals and giving them a more authentic feeling about their visit (Okumus et al., 2007). Therefore, the purpose of this study is to overview the history, statistics, significance for tourism of the Cantonese dim sum restaurant, then investigating government policy, plan, and promotion of tourism related to dim sum from the past to present, further analysis and critique of the current situation and providing enduring recommendations for new or improved policies and promotion.
Origin of Cantonese dim sum restaurant
Hong Kong and Guangzhou are close neighbors and a multitude of entrepreneurs came mostly from the Guangdong province. After 1949, numerous mainlanders from other provinces moved to Hong Kong and continuously established a mixed culture. These new immigrants brought along their food and eating habits to Hong Kong. Thence, Cantonese dim sum restaurant in Hong Kong have developed its roots in Guangzhou and became prosperous in the early 20th century (Au, 2005). Dim sum means “touch your heart” which is the soul of yum cha culture,. It is a style of Cantonese cuisine prepared as snack-size portion of food traditionally served in bamboo containers, such as Shao mai, steamed shrimp dumplings, soup dumpling, beef meatball and steamed barbecued pork buns etc (HKTB, 2017).
In Hong Kong, and in most cities and towns in Guangdong province, many Cantonese dim sum restaurants start serving dim sum at 5 a.m. in the morning. The reason is due to a tradition for the elderly to join and have a gathering to eat dim sum after morning exercises. For many people in Southern China, yum cha also treated as a weekend family activity. More and more traditional dim sum restaurants typically serve dim sum until mid-afternoon. However, it has become commonplace for dim sum restaurants to serve dim sum at dinner time to meet the changing society, various dim sum items were even sold as take-away food for students and office workers (Parkinson, 2013).
Cantonese dim sum restaurant market in Hong Kong
Cantonese dim sum cuisine is the mainstream cuisine in Hong Kong, which is favoured by both local residents and visitors from around the world. According to HKSAR Census and Statistic Department (2015), the revenue generated from the Cantonese dim sum restaurant segment in Hong Kong showed an overall rising trend between 2010 and 2015, increasing from around HK$15,746.8 million to around HK$17,047.5 million, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 1.6% over the period. After the statement of the anti-graft campaign by the Chinese government, the enthusiasm on luxurious spending in high-end Cantonese dim sum restaurants had been lessened. Some of the visitors had shifted their interest from fine-dining to casual dining, this factor lowered the revenue of the Cantonese dim sum restaurants and its percentage contribution to the total revenue generated from the catering industry. It is expected that the revenue of the Cantonese dim sum restaurants would increase from around HK$17,340.1 million in 2016 to around 17,605.4 million in 2019 due to the drop in rental prices since 2015 which would probably bring more chances for the expansion of Cantonese dim sum restaurants. Figure 1 sets out the revenue generated from the Cantonese dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong from 2010 to 2019:
Figure 1: Revenue of the Cantonese restaurant
With the stable growth of the Hong Kong economy, the average annual household disposable income also raised. Before 2014, Hong Kong tourism industry has been growing in a high speed in terms of inbound visitors. In spite of the downward period of Hong Kong tourism market in 2015, the number of visitors visiting Hong Kong was still high with about 59.3 million arrivals, up by around 64.7% compared to 2010. Since Hong Kong tourism market is expected to enter its gradual recovery stage, the total catering expenditure of visitors is expected to follow the trend to recover gradually. As Cantonese dim sum cuisine has been recognized by visitors to be one of the most representable Chinese cuisines in Hong Kong, it is expected that the increasing number of both local population and foreign visitors with increasing catering expenditure would drive the mild growth of the Cantonese dim sum restaurant industry in Hong Kong for the coming years (HKSAR Census and Statistic Department, 2015).y
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