Hong Kong Shines Bright with Christmas Lights

The city with the world’s highest concentration of skyscrapers has made a tradition of spending lavishly to deck its glass facades with the world’s brightest displays of Christmas lights.

Each November the owners of Hong Kong’s skyscrapers — as well as of its humbler business structures — spend to be a part of the effervescent nightly display of holiday lights that have come to outshine those of every other city from New York to London to Tokyo.

The frenetic displays of flashing Christmas images of reindeer, Santas, snowflakes and doves of peace cost between $2,600 and $13,000 (HK$20,000 – HK$100,000), display designer Terence Wong told the New York Times. Despite an economy that has grown just 1.2% in 2012 — down from 4.9% in 2011 and 6.8% in 2010 — the owners haven’t skimped on light displays. When the city was hit by the SARS epidemic in 2003, the displays became even more elaborate, reports Wong.

Light Fantastic

That’s because Hong Kong thrives on tourism, and the city’s property owners see the displays as an essential investment for keeping the city shining brightly in the eyes of the world’s travelers, especially those from mainland China.

“For every mainland Chinese who visits Singapore or New York today, there are 20 or more who go to Hong Kong,” said HSBC economist Donna Kwok in a research report released earlier this month. By 2015 she sees tourism growing to $55 billion in revenues, about 22% of Hong Kong’s anticipated GDP.

The city makes the most of the promotional value of the city’s glittering image. Its tourism board has organized a nightly light-and-laser show involving 40 buildings. The lights enjoy extended life in Hong Kong thanks to Chinese New Year which typically fall between late-January and mid-February and is an even more important festival and travel season for mainland visitors. Once the western New Year is over, the displays are changed to reflect traditional Chinese motifs. Christmas wishes become Chinese characters for prosperity, Santa Clauses become money gods, snowflakes become symbols of fortune and happiness.