No peak as visitor numbers slump 40pc

Business | Tereza Cai 9 Sep 2019

The decline in visitors to Hong Kong continued last month, usually the peak season for tourism.

The number of visitors fell 40 percent last month from a year ago, sharply deteriorating from the 5 percent decrease in July, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po wrote in his blog.

He said the occupancy rate at some hotels more than halved in August, with room prices falling 40-70 percent. The retailing and catering industries were similar. But the most worrying thing was the outlook ahead seemed difficult to turn around, he said.

On the other hand, the escalating Sino-US trade war weighed on the city's trade performance. Hong Kong's total export value recorded a 5.7 percent decline in July compared with a year ago. During the first six months this year, the total value of China's exports to the United States through Hong Kong dropped 15.2 percent year-on-year, Chan said.

Commenting on Fitch Ratings cutting Hong Kong's rating to AA from AA+ last Friday for the first time since the 1997 handover, citing the protests and questioning whether the city's integration into the mainland might lead to a regulatory challenge in the long term, Chan said the worry is groundless.

Hong Kong has long strengthened cooperation with the mainland and leveraged on its advantages to serve China, to reach a win-win result under 'one country, two systems,' Chan said, stressing that the 'one country, two systems' was the basic system for Hong Kong's success.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor also voiced her disagreement with Fitch Ratings' doubt on 'one country, two systems,' saying the protests did not impair the system at all, and the government would stop violence and quell the storm by persisting with the system.

In a bid to assist the local enterprises tackling all these issues, Chan last week announced two new support measures and relief policies. He said those measures could only mitigate the pressure on the SMEs.

Only if the broader environment turns stable without violent conflicts and disruptions to traffic, and people are willing to work together tackling the challenges Hong Kong faces while seeking political resolutions, would Hong Kong be able to overcome its difficulties, he added.

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