The protests in Hong Kong, now in their 15th week, continue to impact the city’s tourism industry and in particular visitors from mainland China, who are usually its biggest group of tourists. The number of Chinese group tours to the city fell 90% compared to a year ago in the first ten days of September, according to data compiled by the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong. In the month of August, the decline was 63% compared to a year ago.
The city’s tourism sector has been decimated by footage beamed around the world of leaderless protests that have turned violent at times, with the police using tear gas, blue dyes and batons. Overall, tourism to the city declined almost 40% in August from a year earlier, said Financial Secretary Paul Chan in a blog post Sunday. That’s the worst drop since the 2003 SARS epidemic.
The protests, which morphed from opposition to a proposed extradition law to a broader challenge against Beijing’s authority, have placed a growing toll on the city’s economy and show no signs of abating, despite Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s decision to scrap the extradition bill this month.
Hong Kong’s hotel industry is struggling with a collapse in bookings after protesters disrupted flights from the territory’s airport last month. Retail sales by value dropped 11.4% in July — the first full month affected by the protests. Hong Kong’s economy overall contracted 0.4% in the second quarter from the previous period, raising the prospect of a technical recession.
Chinese tourists are especially wary due to a perception that they could be targeted. A reported attack by protesters on a man suspected of being a security agent from the nearby city of Shenzhen was widely shared on Chinese social media platform Weibo last month.
Chinese officials and the state-run media are framing the protests as driven by violent extremists, highlighting instances where the police or civilians not involved in the demonstrations have also been attacked.