Free bus rides welcome tourists

A free shuttle bus running between West Kowloon Station, M+ and Hong Kong Palace museums in West Kowloon Cultural District began operation yesterday as the WKCD Authority is expecting a surge in overseas tourists to the new museums opened between 2019 and 2022.

A daily water taxi route between Central, West Kowloon, Tsim Sha Tsui East and Wan Chai will start service from the first day of the Lunar New Year holidays on Sunday.

The authority said overseas visitors had not had a chance to visit the world-class galleries opened amid Covid travel restrictions and the authority has been gearing for border reopening months ago, with a cross-departmental task force set up to improve transport to the area, as well as ticketing arrangements.

Betty Fung Ching Suk-Yee, WKCDA chief executive, said yesterday that the authority enhanced public transport to facilitate tourists as the district is expecting to receive more mainland travelers this year.

"The new shuttle bus will allow travelers taking the high-speed rail to come to the West Kowloon Cultural District as soon as they get off the trains," Fung said.

The shuttle bus connecting the high-speed rail stations with the M+ and Hong Kong Palace Museum runs every 20 minutes from 9am to 7.30pm and each bus can carry about 60 passengers.

The new water taxi service also allows citizens on Hong Kong Island to visit West Kowloon easily as it takes only 20 minutes from Central to the district, she said.

But Fung said the number of mainland tourists will not rise sharply soon as they have to apply for a tourism visa before being allowed to visit the SAR. She expects more mainland tourists in a couple of months.

More than 200 ancient Chinese gold artifacts from the Hong Kong Palace Museum collection will be displayed in a new exhibition next month. It is among six special exhibitions scheduled in galleries this year.

The museum will also cooperate with French luxury brand Cartier to hold an exhibition in April, showing nearly 300 pieces of jewelry since the 19th century.

Another exhibition showing Chinese Sanxingdui cultural relics will also be launched at the Palace Museum in September, the first time ancient Sanxingdui cultural relics are displayed outside the mainland.

The M+ Museum and Hong Kong Palace Museum have attracted 2.48 million and 710,000 visitors. The exhibition of Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama's artwork has also attracted 90,000 visitors, she added.

As Hong Kong has reopened the border with the mainland, West Kowloon is expected to receive more tourists, Fung said.

The authority will also allow travel agencies to book group tickets.

"The two museums can receive 550 tour groups a month in the initial stage. We can further increase the capacity if there is a higher demand," she said.