Coronavirus: HK tourism hits record low as arrivals drop 99 per cent

16-Apr-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Arrivals in Hong Kong dived nearly 99 per cent to 82,000 in March, official year-on-year figures revealed on Wednesday, as the coronavirus pandemic forced the city’s tourism industry to a near standstill.

The Tourism Board’s latest provisional statistics showed only 3. 49 million visitors in the first quarter of the year, down 80.9 per cent from the same period last year.

March marked the ninth consecutive month of a drop in arrivals as the sector suffered the double whammy of the Covid-19 crisis and the anti-government protests that broke out last summer.

Travel Industry Council executive director Alice Chan Cheung Lok-yee said she had expected the steep slump given the city’s tightening curbs to contain the pandemic and predicted April would be equally grim. “Inbound tourism has suffered since mid-last year. We are waiting for the government to give us some relief measures so that agents can overcome this,” Chan said, adding: “There is only one word left: miserable.”

The fall was more serious than when the severe acute respiratory syndrome struck the city in 2003, and pushed arrivals down 67.9 per cent that May, to 427,000.

Since Covid-19 hit Hong Kong in January, the government has rolled out a series of travel curbs to contain the spread of the disease, closing all but three border checkpoints.

The board said that before mid-March, average daily arrivals were between 3,000 and 4,000. But after officials required non-residents entering the city from overseas to be quarantined beginning on March 19, the figure dropped to about 1,000.

From March 25, all non-Hong Kong residents coming from abroad by air have been denied entry to the city. That rule has also applied to those from mainland China, Macau and Taiwan if they have been to any other countries in the past two weeks.

With such a measure in place, the board said the number of arrivals plunged to just 300 per day, while average daily visitors dropped to below 100 at the beginning of April.

In February, the city posted a 96.4 per cent year-on-year slump to 199,000 about the daily average in the first half of last year. That drop came after the government required all arrivals from the mainland to be placed under quarantine in Hong Kong from that month. That restriction is set to expire on May 7 and the government has not announced any plans to extend it.

Chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Tuesday said the government would monitor the situation and the measure might continue if necessary. “But I can’t say it today because the development of the pandemic may change very quickly,” Lam said.

Chan had not heard any plans by inbound tour operators to organise groups to visit the city after May 7. “But I guess there will be more free individual travellers,” she said, provided there was no policy extension.

Ricky Tse Kam-ting, founding president of the Hong Kong Inbound Tour Operators Association, estimated some individual travellers from neighbouring Guangdong province would come to the city if the measure was lifted. “But they won’t stay long, maybe one or two nights,” Tse said.

He expected the market for mainland inbound tours would only begin to recover late this year as the mainland travel industry would focus on boosting domestic tourism and Hong Kong was no longer viewed as a new destination.


Category: Hong Kong

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