An unexpected fifth wave of Covid-19 has cast a shadow over hopes for a recovery in Hong Kong’s tourism sector as authorities tighten anti-virus restrictions and suspend long-awaited plans for quarantine-free travel between Hong Kong and China.
Hong Kong announced Friday (January 14) that passengers from more than 150 countries and territories will be banned from transiting the city for a month to control the spread of Omicron. The city has one of the strictest Covid-19 policies in the world, requiring a mandatory hotel quarantine of up to 21 days for incoming travelers from most countries.
This follows the decision of the city authorities on January 7 to impose new restrictions for two weeks, including a ban on eating in restaurants after 6 p.m. and the closure of fifteen types of places, including bars, cinemas and gymnasiums.
The government is expected to announce later Friday that the restrictions will be extended over the Lunar New Year holiday in early February, according to a Reuters report.
Gray Line Tours general manager Michael Wu predicts the first inbound traffic will return in October. “It will take time and we are not alone as similar practices are being implemented around the world,” he said, adding that hopefully the country’s vaccination rate will continue to rise. .
The managing director of One Bus Holiday and executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Association, Timothy Chui, does not hope for any resumption of local tourist activities, with the exception of hotel stays which are currently allowed under strict rules, will take place before the Lunar New Year holiday. given the worsening epidemic situation.
He noted that before the latest wave fueled by Omicron, the city was making good progress in exploring the resumption of quarantine-free travel with visitors from mainland China, subject to a limited quota.
“It would have given momentum and paved the way for the medium to long-term recovery of the sector,” he said.
Chui added that more than 90% of the city’s travel agencies are SMEs, which have government funding as a lifeline to get through this difficult time, but that is not the case for other stakeholders like the hotels and transport companies that have been left out. In the cold.
Overseas travel operators are currently staying afloat by shifting to domestic travel, including running government-subsidized tours, as well as selling hotel stays and cruise packages.
ePlay.hk Managing Director Thomas Chan said, “Except for staycations, all tourism activities are currently suspended and we are busy refunding our customers now. Without a specific recovery date, our road to recovery will be very long. »
In a statement, the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners said the latest round of restrictions will cause huge financial losses for hotels and restaurants, especially during the Lunar New Year season. He warned that if the situation persisted, many restaurants would go bankrupt, leading to mass unemployment.