Tourist arrivals in Hong Kong took the sharpest plunge amid anti-government protests in November at 56 per cent year on year, closest to the slump when the city was hit by an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) in 2003.
Only 2.65 million people visited Hong Kong in the month, or 88,000 daily, according to latest figures released by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
When Sars hit the city 16 years ago, tourist arrivals in the months of April and May that year fell more than 60 per cent from the same period the previous year.
Tourist arrivals were especially worse during November 11 to 20, when protesters were engaged in violent clashes with police on the campuses of Chinese University (CUHK) and Polytechnic University (PolyU). Only 67,000 tourists arrived a day on average during this period.
The CUHK campus in Sha Tin was occupied by radical protesters for five days last month, whereas PolyU was the scene of ugly clashes for 13 days.
Tourist arrivals improved slightly on the last 10 days of the month, at about 87,000 a day.
In the first 11 months of this year, tourist arrivals fell 10 per cent year on year to 53 million. Hong Kong recorded a 14 per cent year-on-year growth in arrivals for the first half of the year and a 36 per cent decline between July and November.
In the beginning of the year, the board forecast the figure would climb 1.9 per cent to a record 66.4 million in 2019.
Ricky Tse Kam-ting, founding president of the Hong Kong Inbound Tour Operators’ Association, said he was not surprised at the record slump and expected worse days to come as mainland tourists were assaulted in Sheung Shui shopping malls during Christmas.
“I have been in the industry for 40 years, and the situation now is the worst,” Tse said. “During the Sars outbreak, people worked together to boost the economy. But now, it’s like a long war with no end in sight.”
Tse said many countries and cities had stopped promoting Hong Kong tourism, while people in the mainland were also worried they would be assaulted if they came to the city.
“The whole industry is worried, and there’s little we can do at the moment.”
In a blog post last Sunday, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said he expected negative GDP growth in the fourth quarter, amid gloomy figures in retail sales and visitor arrivals, and rising unemployment rates in certain industries.
“Although the statistics for the fourth quarter will be out only early next year, judging from the situation of the past few months, a continued negative growth seems unavoidable,” he wrote.
The government said new measures would be rolled out next month and in the coming budget to help Hong Kong businesses survive the downturn.
Hong Kong has been rocked by anti-government protests since June, which, coupled with the US-China trade war, have pushed the city into recession. The economy shrank 3.2 per cent in the third quarter from the previous one, while GDP was down 2.9 per cent year on year, the biggest contraction in a decade.
Chan cited the record drop of 26 per cent in retail sales in October, a more than 50 per cent fall in visitors over the Christmas holiday, and a six-year high unemployment rate of more than 6 per cent in the catering industry.
He also said the government would have its first budget deficit in 15 years in the 2019/20 financial year.
This article Tourist arrivals take sharpest plunge in November since protests began in Hong Kong first appeared on South China Morning Post