Tourists numbers have dropped as travel warnings have been issued for Hong Kong. Photo: HK government

The United States has issued a travel advisory for Hong Kong because of the civil unrest there, recommending its citizens “exercise a high degree of caution.”

The US warned its citizens to exercise increased caution in a statement issued on Thursday. It said most of the protests had been peaceful, but some turned into violent clashes, and warned that the protests and confrontations have spilled over into neighborhoods other than those where the police have permitted marches or rallies.

It said protests could take place with little or no notice and that they were likely to continue.

The travel advisory came after one issued by Australia on Tuesday. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said protests in Hong Kong had become more unpredictable and were expected to continue.

It advised its citizens to avoid large gatherings, saying: “There is a risk of violent confrontations between protesters and police, or criminally-linked individuals, particularly at unauthorized protests.” The statement added that the risks were greater at nights and on weekends.

Hong Kong is entering its ninth week of protests and rallies sparked by the government’s now-suspended extradition bill amendment. The Hong Kong government has not fully responded to the demands from protesters, nor did they try to start any communication platforms or dialogue with the people of Hong Kong.

Peaceful rallies and marches have started turning violent and clashes between police and protesters have escalated. Many accuse the police of using excessive force on protesters and liaising with triad-linked gangsters to attack the protesters.

On July 21, thugs with triad links staged a violent attack on anti-extradition bill protesters and civilians at a train station in Yuen Long in the New Territories.

The United Kingdom, the US, Ireland and Japan have issued travel warnings to their citizens for Hong Kong. The South Korean consulate-general warned their citizens to avoid going to the protest sites and to be cautious about the color of clothes they wear and using cameras if they are in the vicinity of a protest or rally.

The tourism industry is suffering as many tours in August from Southeast Asian countries have been canceled, Tse Kam-yin, the founder of the Hong Kong Inbound Tours Operators Association, told Sky Post.

Tse said about 4,000 travelers from Southeast Asia booked tours to Hong Kong in July, but due to the anti-extradition bill saga, only 900 came to Hong Kong. Tse added that only a few hundred travelers booked for August and only 100 booked for September. He has asked some of his staff to take unpaid holidays.

Tse had bookings from 5,000 travelers in the same period last year. He urged the government to solve the unrest as soon as possible.

Wong Ka-ngai, the general secretary of the Hong Kong Tourist Guides General Union, said at least 60% of the tours from mainland China were canceled in June and July. He said many tourist guides were under threat of unemployment.

Wong Chun-tat, the chairperson of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, said there were about 160 tours on average from mainland China every day, down from 200 tours in the same period last year.

Besides visitors from Southeast Asian countries, Wong also said there were cancellations of business trips or expo visitors from Europe and the US.

Meanwhile, hotel room bookings have dropped 10% to 15%. Three-star hotels and guesthouses were the hardest hit.

Cathay Pacific Airways said the company had suffered a double-digit drop in ticket sales to Hong Kong in the next few months due to the protests, while a single-digit fall for outbound ticket bookings was expected.

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