I’ve been to Asia before, but never here. As I scout the city, I can’t help but compare it to my most recent destinations. And as places to do business, few measure up. I wish the U.S. Conference of Mayors would convene a meeting here on the Kowloon peninsula. Here’s what they’d find.
Cheap, efficient public transportation
Not only rental cars are superfluous in Hong Kong; taxis and town cars are, too. The city’s subway system is clean, fast and wonderfully efficient. Even top executives use it. Visitors can purchase an Octopus card and input as much as $999 Hong Kong dollars (about US $128), then get fare discounts. (The same card can also be used around town at restaurants, convenience stores, the Star Ferry, even to buy incense sticks at Taoist shrines.) And here’s the crucial part: When you leave, any money remaining on the card is refunded to you.
Truly full-service hotels
Before roaming the streets to find a SIM card for my generic travel phone, I stopped at the Ritz-Carlton’s concierge desk for advice. Turns out they have a stock of them available for purchase at the hotel. Within five minutes I was back in my room, e-mailing my associates my new local number. I’m leaving several of my bags behind at the Ritz when I take a three-day side trip to China, though I’ll be checking in at the Mandarin Oriental across the harbor when I return. The two hotels have already coordinated their services to ensure the bags will be waiting at the Mandarin when I arrive.
Fast (good) food
Hong Kong has its share of McDonald’s, but I can’t imagine why. More than in any other city I’ve visited, meals here are quick, inexpensive, delicious and actually healthful, from the archetypal local noodle shops with roasted geese hanging in the windows to clean, enticing chains such as Fairwood and Hung Fook Tong, which serve soup, dumplings and more elaborate fare. Five U.S. dollars buys a huge, tasty lunch or late-night snack, a boon to businessmen on a budget or on the go. And unlike reasonable facsimiles in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and other North American cities, these eateries are not tucked away in hard-to-find ethnic enclaves, but easily accessible in shopping malls, subway stations and on busy streets in the heart of the business district.
Downtown flight check-in
At two central subway stations, you can get your boarding pass and even check your bags. That means you can utilize the cheap, direct airport train carrying only hand luggage, an immensely preferable option to hauling suitcases down long corridors–or paying premium prices for an airport taxi.
Airlines like they used to be
When my flight from Hong Kong to Xiamen was delayed and I seemed destined to miss a connection, I walked off the plane to find a Dragonair agent holding a sign with my name on it. “Hurry up,” she shouted, then set off down the hall like a quarter-miler. She pushed me through passport control, bullied our way through security and handed me off to another agent who was radioing ahead with our progress. I arrived at the gate two minutes past the scheduled departure time, but they’d held the plane. When’s the last time United, Delta or American did that for you?