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."

Reuters

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