Social unrest, weak yuan see tourist numbers plunge 30pc

Local | Daphne Li 7 Aug 2019

The number of tourists that visited Hong Kong last month is estimated to have dropped between 20 and 30 percent in comparison to July last year due to the recent social unrest, a travel industry association said.

Even though the tourism performance was robust in the first half of this year, the protests that have broken out across the city have caused tourism to take a beating, Herman Lam, president of the Hong Kong Inbound Travel Association, said yesterday.

The ongoing protests has also deterred mainland travel agencies from organizing tours to Hong Kong and Macau given the traffic disruption that has occurred in the SAR on several occasions, Lam said.

Lam estimated a 20 to 30 percent drop in the overall visitor numbers compared to last year, with group tours having taken the biggest hit while individual tourists decreased slightly.

Hong Kong welcomed 5.46 million visitors in July last year, which marked an 8.5 percent increase in comparison to the same period in 2017.

Among the people that visited the city, 85 percent of them, or 4.4 million, were mainland tourists, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board. Lam said the purchasing power of mainland tourists has decreased due to the depreciation of the yuan, and added a decline in their average spending is normal.

He added that Southeast Asian countries, such as Thailand, have successfully captured the attention of mainland tourists recently, which added to the woes local tourism is experiencing.

Lam said hotel occupancy rates and sales figures have been below par last month, with three-star hotels and those that accommodate group tours feeling the brunt of the impact.

He said if the citywide protests continue, there could be a wave of sackings and pay cuts in the industry.

Timothy Chui Ting-pong, a director at the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, said the surge of mainland tourists brought on by the opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge last year has been canceled out due to the unrest.

"The number of international tourists has plummeted because these tourists have more access to news and information on the recent social unrest," Chui said.

Lam expects local hotels and tour agencies to make special offers in the coming off-season, but said they won't be of much help given the situation in Hong Kong right now.

"Even if we offer them an all-inclusive travel package, or give them extra discounts, we still need to restore the order of our society to win them back," he said.

Lam called on tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing to promote Hong Kong and cultivate the city's tourist-friendly image around the world.

Ricky Tse Kam-ting, founding president of the Hong Kong Inbound Tour Operators Association, said there has been widespread coverage of the protests in the mainstream media, which has resulted in the tourism industry seeing a huge decline in hotel and tour bookings for the coming months.

"The numbers of conference tours have also dropped," he said.

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