Who knows travel better than those who have dedicated their lives to it? In this series, 7travel talks travel & tips with industry experts. Learn the best travel tips, what mistakes not to make, and what destinations should be on your to-visit list.
The travel bug bit Hong Kong Tourism Board’s Regional Director for Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific, Andrew Clark when he first started his career in London. 30 years later, his passion for travel is still burning strong and has resulted in travel adventures of his own. Recently, we had a chance to speak with Clark to get his expert perspective on how to prepare for an epic international holiday and what makes his focus Hong Kong such an enticing destination for Australian travellers.
7travel: How long have you worked in the travel industry?
Clark: A very long time. Having graduated in Biological Sciences at London University, I started my career as a graduate business trainee with Unilever’s agricultural division. After around four years, I decided I wanted to enter the burgeoning leisure sector and joined Ladbroke’s casino division, where I worked as a croupier in Knightsbridge, in London’s West End. Following this I moved to France to work for a tour operator. This ignited my passion for the travel and tourism industry and since then it has just grown stronger.
7travel: Do you have an ideal amount of time to spend away on holiday?
Clark: It really depends on where you’re going, but for Hong Kong we recommend a minimum of three nights. Hong Kong is such a diverse fusion of East meets West, and old meets new, to create a destination like no other in the world. I have been at least 30 times and I still discover new things each time.
7travel: Do you have any packing tips?
Clark: Don’t take too much. Downsize, as you can always buy at the other end, particularly in Hong Kong where shopping is everywhere - from high-end designer stores, to quaint markets and local craft stores. When travelling to Hong Kong, you want to make sure you have a little space to spare in your suitcase.
7travel: Do you have any tips for long flights?
Clark: I love it when that door shuts and I’m excluded from the outside world. I immediately try to zone out. I change my watch to the time of my destination so my body clock can start adjusting early…I also kick off with a Bloody Mary as well no matter what time the flight is.
7travel: How has social media made an impact on travel?
Clark: Social media is a huge part of our marketing and PR strategy, as Hong Kong is such a photogenic destination. Also, half of our leisure visitors from Australia are repeat visitors, even multi-repeaters. We know they love Hong Kong and know it intimately, so the fact that they can promote their take on it is just helping us to spread our message further and to different audiences.
7travel: What makes Hong Kong such a great destination?
Clark: There are so many things, but one thing that everyone mentions is that it is so easy to get around. For travellers who are new to Asia, Hong Kong is an easy place to start and adjust to the fast pace and sheer volume of people. The culture is also a standout for Hong Kong, it’s very much a mixing pot of diversity. There’s an obvious contrast, but it works harmoniously to create a fun and vibrant place. I often call it the New York of the East. It has an infectious energy and vibe, plus a spectacular harbour with a nightly light and sound show.
7travel: If someone were travelling to Hong Kong for the first time, when is the best time to visit?
Clark: It is a great destination all year round, but I quite like Autumn to early Spring, or September to early April when it’s a bit cooler. That way, you can go out and explore beyond the metropolis. A lot of people think Hong Kong is all skyscrapers and hustle and bustle, but after a short train or ferry ride you can be in the countryside, hiking, cycling, exploring islands, old fishing villages or secluded beaches.
7travel: What can Aussies do better when trying to book holidays?
Clark: Don’t try to over pack your itinerary with loads of destinations or experiences. Anything less than three or four days in one place is just scratching the surface and not really long enough to get into the local way of life. Also, allow time to just discover. I’m more fond of lingering around, chatting to locals, sipping a coffee at the local cafe or just walking around absorbing the surroundings.