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HK tourism leaders, politicians upset over travel alert by US

HK tourism leaders, politicians upset over travel alert by US

Local tourism industry leaders and politicians voiced their anger against the travel alert.

Lam Chi-ting, general secretary of the Federation of Hong Kong Trade Unions in Tourism – the tourism industry branch of the city’s largest labor union, said the hypocritical move by the U.S. is to hammer Hong Kong’s tourism industry, which is one of Hong Kong’s major economic sectors, and further restrain the development of China.

Tourism is a fragile business sector which is easily affected by external factors such as social instability. As more than 800,000 staff are employed in the tourism and retail industry, if the tourism industry in Hong Kong crashes, the related sectors will be frustrated, which damages the whole economy of Hong Kong, said Lam.

He added that although the market of Western tourists only takes up less than 10 percent of the Hong Kong tourism market, the U.S. move to raise the travel warning for Hong Kong will dampen global sentiment on traveling to the city and other Western countries may follow the move.

In July, roughly a month after the protests escalated, the number of tour groups traveling to Hong Kong has seen a slump amid the city’s violent clashes and mass rallies. The tours from the Chinese mainland, which accounts for 70 to 80 percent of the Hong Kong tourism market , have dropped 40 percent, according to Lam.

Starting from July, tour groups from Southeast Asia have slumped 80 to 90 percent. In August, merely about 400 tourists from Southeast Asia are expected to visit Hong Kong and September sees no newly booked tour groups, according to Ricky Tse Kam-ting, founding president of the Hong Kong Inbound Tour Operators Association.

Tse added that there are staff members at travel agencies applying for annual leave in August and a number of employees are considering suspension from duty without pay.

Meanwhile, according to Michael Li Hon-shing, executive director of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, the mass protests and violent riots are expected to drag the occupancy rates of Hong Kong hotels down 3 to 4 percentage points in July and August.

Retail sales in Hong Kong declined 6.7 percent year-on-year in June, falling for the fifth consecutive month, amid the mass rallies and violent clashes in the city, which have harmed consumer sentiment.

Lau Siu-kai, vice-president of the nation’s leading Hong Kong affairs think tank, the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, believed the new move by the United States is a key part of its plot to contain China by destabilizing Hong Kong.

The new travel advisory issued by the U.S. will cause another heavy blow to Hong Kong’s economy, which has already been seriously dented by the recent mayhem in which the U.S. also played a role.

Brave Chan Yung, Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress, the nation’s top legislature, refuted the “evil” agenda by the U.S. to undermine Hong Kong’s stability for its own interests.

According to news reports and historic records, the U.S. has been all the way behind Hong Kong’s recent unrest and many other “color revolutions” around the world, Chan said.