Reading the thoughts of our Committee Chairmen on the outlook for the year ahead provides a fascinating snapshot of the business community's mindset right now. The diversity of their comments, concerns and expectations also highlights the breadth and depth of the experience and knowledge that we have here among our members.
There are a few common motifs. Many of our Chairmen mentioned the Belt and Road Initiative and Greater Bay Area (GBA) as significant developments that will bring great benefits to Hong Kong. The GBA in particular has already delivered tangible improvements, not least the rapid growth of road and rail infrastructure, and we look forward the continued development of this initiative in 2019 as more details are unveiled.
Technology is another key theme. New innovations are emerging that make it more efficient to do business and enable smaller companies to enter new markets and reach new customers. But this also brings disruption to established businesses, and we all need to stay on our toes to keep up with the changes and competition.
We can also expect to see companies getting greener as regulations tighten and the opinion of the general public evolves. At the Chamber we have been taking a closer look at our own operations from an environmental point of view to see where we can do better.
Beyond Mainland China, our geographic committees report that opportunities continue to open up around the world, from our neighbours in ASEAN to the far-flung and relatively unexplored markets in Latin America.
Other areas, such as tax and fintech, have reason for cheer, as policy changes are expected to make us more competitive globally. My own business comes under the tourism sector, and I'm happy to report that visitor numbers are standing up well, with 2018 seeing an overall increase on 2017.
And as for the much-discussed trade war? It is definitely a major concern, and the uncertainty it has created is weighing on local businesses. But it does not dominate the whole economic landscape. Globally, rising interest rates and the rolling back of QE programmes by central banks are also expected to have an impact on Hong Kong.
Other challenges are our manpower and land shortages. We appreciate that the Government has made significant policy moves in both these areas, and we hope to see some further developments this year.
Whatever the Year of the Pig has in store, you can be sure the Chamber will be working hard for the interests of the business community in Hong Kong. May I wish all our members an happy, healthy and prosperous Year of the Pig!