124 days in and there is no end in sight for Hong Kong’s ongoing protests, and the city’s tourism industry is feeling the pinch, with the number of Chinese visitors from late September until the end of 2019 expected to drop by about 60% year-on-year.
Travel analytics firm Forwardkeys has issued a study about the effect Hong Kong’s protests have hit the tourism industry. It shows – compared to the same period last year – forward bookings for travel to Hong Kong from mainland China between 24 September to 30 December are behind 58.2%.
Traditionally, China’s National Day holiday during the first week of October is dubbed “Golden Week” for merchants, with mainland travellers flocking to Hong Kong. Yet, bookings for travel during this year weren’t so golden, with a gut-punch drop of 39.7% compared to 2018.
To provide contrast with that, in Macau, Golden Week provided more than 980,000 visits (up by 11.5%) with about 80% of travellers during the period coming from China, equivalent to 798,000 visits.
Looking ahead, the situation is only expected to get worse as travel bookings from 29 November to 31 December are 68.7% behind.
“Mainland China is Hong Kong’s most important source market and the tourism industry offers 300,000 jobs in Hong Kong, these numbers reveal that the demonstrations are delivering a devastating blow to the economy of Hong Kong,” said Jameson Wong, APAC business development director of ForwardKeys.
Before the city’s first mass protest on 9 June, smaller protests against the controversial extradition bill (which had begun on 31 March) had made little impact on Hong Kong’s travel industry. The number of bookings made by Chinese travellers actually increased by 12.2% year-on-year, and even into the early stage of large-scale protests place(9 June to 1 July), the number of bookings had still surged by 9.6% year-on year.
But as protests became more protracted and escalated in scope, China flight bookings began falling dramatically, hitting a nadir in mid-August with the shutdown of Hong Kong International airport. Bookings dropped by more than 100%, meaning that cancellations exceeded the number of new bookings.
To mitigate the impact on Hong Kong’s travel industry, Edward Yau Tang-wah, secretary for commerce and economic development, said that the Hong Kong Tourism Board is now allocating resources to help the tourism industry. He also said local tourism programmes targeting Hong Kong people could benefit local tour guides, but the government still had to come up with plans to attract visitors from further abroad.