People wearing face masks line up outside a snake restaurant in Hong Kong. Picture: Reuters
People wearing face masks line up outside a snake restaurant in Hong Kong. Picture: Reuters

Hong Kong tourism chief pins hopes on recovery from July

By Donny Kwok Time of article published Apr 13, 2020

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Hong Kong - The impact of the novel coronavirus on Hong Kong's tourism sector is unprecedented and the city can hope to start seeing things returning to normal by July, in part by trying to develop new markets, the head of the tourism board told Reuters.

The coronavirus crisis has paralysed the global financial hub's economy, which was already reeling from months of anti-government protests, with travel restrictions to curb the spread of infection grinding tourism to a halt.

Dane Cheng, executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, said it would focus on boosting local consumer spending, attracting more mainland visitors and promoting the city to new markets such as India and Vietnam and to Muslim tourists.

"The best we can hope for would be in June, July," Cheng said in an interview.

"By that time, you could see things resume to normal. The border of Hong Kong reopening, air services resuming, that is the time for us to move on and start our recovery plan."

The tourism sector accounts for about 4.5 percent of Hong Kong's gross domestic product and employs around 260 000 people.

Cheng was speaking hours before the government announced relief measures worth HK$137.5-billion ($17.7-billion) to help businesses and people crippled by the coronavirus outbreak to stay on their feet.

In a bid to stamp out the disease Covid-19 caused by the virus, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has already imposed tough restrictions, including banning all tourist arrivals and prohibiting gatherings of more than four people.

The city's tourist arrivals plunged 96.4 percent year-on-year in February to 199 123 visitors, the latest data shows, compared with a 52.7 percent year-on-year drop in January. The number of mainland visitors fell 97.8 percent year-on-year in February to 98 804.

"This is something we have never seen before," Cheng said.

The drop in tourism helped to send retail sales plunging by a record 44 percent in February from a year earlier. 

"We have experience of ups and downs in Hong Kong during different crises. Obviously this one is the most severe that we have ever encountered," Cheng said.

"I would say that survival is important but let's have faith."


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