Hong Kong protests send tourism into a free fall

Even though tourism in Hong Kong right now is in a free fall due to the ongoing protests, what it means for travelers is bargains galore. Some of the best hotel rates and tours are being offered to those interested in traveling to the city.

Thanks to the efficient work of the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), the city remains safe for tourists. Not one visitor has been hurt during any of the protests. Also, the HKTB has been vigilant in keeping its website up to date with the latest news, airport, and traffic information for those coming to visit.

But the unfortunate reality is, tourism numbers are in a free fall due to ongoing protests now in day 124. The government is estimating the number of Chinese visitors to drop by 60 percent by the end of the year as compared to last year.

Usually, China merchants look forward to “Golden Week” during which the National Day holiday is celebrated during the first week of October. This is normally a time when mainland China travelers head to Hong Kong in droves to enjoy the celebrations. But bookings for travel this year fell 39.7% compared to last year. In Macau, where there were no protests, Golden Week brought in close to 1 million visits, an increase of 11.5 percent.

Hong Kong experienced its first mass protest on June 9 against the extradition bill. The proposed bill was introduced in February of this year and sought to establish a mechanism for transfers of fugitives not only for Taiwan, but also for Mainland China and Macau, currently excluded by existing laws.

The bill caused widespread criticism domestically and abroad from businesses, foreign governments, the legal profession, as well as media groups fearing the erosion of Hong Kong’s legal system and business climate. On June 15, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced she would suspend the proposed, however, ongoing protests are calling for a complete withdrawal of the bill.

As the protests have become more prominent in the media and greater in size, bookings for flights to China have severely dropped by over 100 percent. This equates to more flights being cancelled than new flights being booked. On August 12, protestors at Hong Kong International Airport caused a complete shutdown with close to 200 flights canceled to and from Hong Kong on that day.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board is allocating resources to help the tourism industry. Mr. Edward Yau Tan, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, said local tourism programs targeting Hong Kong people could benefit local tour guides. The government is still working on ways to attract visitors from abroad.