Coronavirus: Hong Kong tourism industry to receive HK $ 377 million to overcome border closures

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Hong Kong’s besieged tourism industry will receive a HK $ 377 million (US $ 48 million) relief package to help operators navigate ongoing border closures during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Travel agents, tour guides, coach drivers and operators of cross-border vehicles and ferries are expected to benefit from the latest round of government financial support, with the first installments expected from early September.

Tourism has been the hardest hit industry in Hong Kong since the eruption of anti-government protests in 2019 and the coronavirus crisis that followed, Commerce Minister Edward Yau Tang-wah said during the funding announcement Thursday. .

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Yau said challenges for the industry remained even as the government opened up more opportunities for businesses, including allowing local tours and “cruises to nowhere” to resume. He added that officials are also exploring the formation of travel bubbles with other savings.

“Despite our efforts, with the [pandemic] still largely affecting the world, cross-border travel… travel can hardly resume in the short term, ”he said.

“In view of the serious challenges the tourism industry faces on an ongoing basis, the government has decided to provide a series of additional special grants to continue to support relevant trades and assist practitioners during this difficult time. “

The support program includes a series of one-off payments to the sector through the Anti-Epidemic Fund, which was set up by the government last year to help businesses stay afloat.

Under these plans, travel agencies with 10 or fewer employees will each receive a flat rate of HK $ 50,000. Those with 11 or more employees are entitled to HK $ 5,000 per worker.

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Travel agency staff, accredited independent tour guides and tour guides will be offered 7,500 HK $, with coach drivers for HK $ 3,350.

For operators of cross-border transport services, owners of coaches and rental cars will be given HK $ 30,000 for each vehicle, against HK $ 500,000 per ship for ferry companies.

Tourism lawmaker Yiu Si-wing has said he hopes the latest package will help travel agencies hold on until the end of this year.

“This round of funding can slow the tide of closures and layoffs,” he said.

But he said resuming non-quarantine travel with mainland China or creating travel corridors with other destinations seemed a distant prospect for Hong Kong, which has been on virtual lockdown for about 18 months.

Yiu called on authorities to increase subsidies for domestic green tourism, adding that easing Covid-19 testing requirements for “cruise to nowhere” travel could also help operators attract more customers.

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