The tourism industry of Hong Kong has experienced its biggest decrease in more than 10 years. Tourist arrivals in August fell nearly 40% year on year. The drop is said to be due to the ongoing political turmoil.
In August, a total of 3.59 million people visited Hong Kong. This number is 39% lower than the number of tourists in the city around the same time last year. According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, there were 5.89 million tourists in August 2018.
The biggest drop comes from the Vietnamese with visitors dropping 43%. This was followed by tourists from Mainland China. There was a 42% drop in the number of tourists from 4.8 million to 2.78 million.
While the numbers for August dropped, the first eight months of the year saw a four percent growth in the number of visitors to Hong Kong. From 42 million last year, there have been 43.6 million tourists over the same period last year.
The decline in the number of tourist footfalls in August is the biggest year-on-year decrease for the former British colony since 2003.
Hong Kong had an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS in 2003. Due to health risks, travel advisories were issued by different countries, warning their citizens about the outbreak in Hong Kong. This led to a 31% drop in tourist footfall which was then considered to be Hong Kong’s biggest plunge.
The number of visitor arrivals for September is also not looking good for Hong Kong. It fell by more than 30% year on year. In some districts, hotels have experienced a 50% drop in their business.
According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, the hardest hit was by short-haul markets. Except for Macau, it experienced a 32% drop in visitors. As for long-haul markets like Canada and the United States, the decline was around 21%.
The Hong Kong Tourism Board is planning to work with industry players for a major promotional campaign in various large-scale markets when the right time comes along.
“Through various promotion channels, we will seek to restore Hong Kong’s image as a safe travel destination and rebuild consumer confidence,” the board said.
The current decrease in Hong Kong’s tourists is due to the continuing anti-government protests that are on their 17th consecutive week. There are currently no signs of easing between protesters and pro-government forces.
Over the weekend, violence and chaos engulfed the streets of Admiralty, Causeway Bay, and Wan Chai as riot police and protesters clashed for hours.
Amid the protests, about 40 jurisdictions from around the globe have released travel alerts for people who are going to Hong Kong.
To mitigate the effects on the tourism sectors, the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang introduced two relief measures.
According to Yau, the government will be providing a $127 subsidy to about 6,000 tour guides who will be going through license-renewal courses. This will be funded by the Travel Industry Council.
Those who are underemployed or jobless can sign up for a free special training program by the Employees Retraining Board. They can get an allowance of up to $500 per month until June 2020.
The program being offered has 48 training courses. It covers 19 sectors including tourism, dining, and retail. This will be available for up to 10,000 people without any charge from October 3 up to the end of June 2020.
“The scheme is to assist the recently unemployed, those required to take leave without pay or the underemployed to upgrade their skills for self-enhancement, with a view to re-entering the employment market as early as possible,” said Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong.