Mainland Chinese tourists visit Wan Chai during the busy pre-Covid times. File photo., Photo: HK Government

Hong Kong’s economy – and tourism sector – will be hit by ongoing protests against the extradition bill, if violent clashes continue.

Yiu Si-wing, the tourism sector lawmaker, said the number of inbound tourists increased by 15% year-on-year over the first five months of this year but dropped to growth of 8.5% in June when a series of protests and rallies took place, Oriental Daily reported.

The number of tours declined last month and a 6% decrease in numbers was recorded in the first half of July, while tours from mainland China saw a 10% drop.

With the protests escalating and thugs attacking passengers on the subway in Yuen Long on Sunday, travel agencies arranging study tours or tours for meetings have received a rising number of calls to check the safety in Hong Kong or just canceling trips.

Yiu said most visitors are travelers from mainland China, who account for 80% of inbound tourists. This group did not like the vandalism of the national emblem at the Liaison Office on Sunday, as the incident upset patriotic sentiment. And that may deter people from wanting to visit Hong Kong.

Yiu said Hong Kong used to be a safe city for travelers, but the ongoing protests and clashes had shaken people’s confidence. He hoped the government would resolve the dispute quickly.

Michael Li Hong-shing, executive director of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, agreed, but said the situation was still under control. However, if there was more violence, tourism would worsen due to safety concerns.

Li expected the room occupancy rate to fall 2-3% and that average room prices would decline 10% if the protests continue until next month.

Travel warnings

Meanwhile, the United States, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Ireland all issued a travel warning to their citizens who may travel to Hong Kong, Ming Pao Daily reported.

The Japan and Korean consulate-generals warned their citizens in Hong Kong about violent attacks in Yuen Long and Tuen Mun in the New Territories and advised them not to go to those districts. The Korean consulate-general also listed districts where protests could be staged in coming weeks.

The advisory said 45 people had been injured in Yuen Long, so Koreans should be cautious about the color of clothes they were and using cameras if they are in the vicinity of a protest or rally.

Chui Ting-pong, executive director of Hong Kong Tourism Association, said some shops in Yuen Long, Tuen Mun or Sha Tin were closed due to fears of further violence.

Meanwhile, the International Chamber of Commerce Hong Kong joined the calls to condemn the attacks in Yuen Long on Sunday. It called for Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to set up an independent inquiry on what has caused rifts in Hong Kong society.

The chamber said the recent social unrest had weakened the business sector’s confidence. It urged the government and other sectors to resume normal operations in Hong Kong.

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