Hong Kong tourism begins to feel impact as pro-democracy protests rage


Hong Kong’s tourism industry is going through a period of uncertainty and concern as political protests entered week eight with no signs of abating.

It is unclear how the drama will play out after the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Bureau, Beijing’s main political body for the two cities, broke its silence and criticized the protests at a press briefing on Monday.

The last three days have been trying for the tourism players in Hong Kong. For the first time, tourism has been used as a way to raise the pro-democracy voice internationally, as evidenced by the protests supported by the flight attendants union at Hong Kong International Airport last Friday.

Much to the relief of the industry, it turned out to be peaceful, with no disruption to airport operations. A march on Saturday in the small town of Yuen Long, near the border with China, however, saw 24 people hospitalized. Protests continued in the central business district of Hong Kong Island on Sunday, with police firing tear gas.

Protesters call for the complete withdrawal of an extradition bill, greater democracy, an independent investigation into the alleged use of thugs by mainland China on July 22 in Yuen Long, and the departure of the leader of the city, Carrie Lam.

There are still tourists

Tourism hasn’t stopped in Hong Kong, but there is a slowdown in activity and a slower pace of recovery for new bookings. But the unexpressed concern is that tourism will come to a halt if China represses the move harshly and another Tiananmen Square occurs.

Right now, the major Hong Kong-based hotel chains interviewed by Skift said Hong Kong tourism is not on fire but is, yes, on fire.

They accept the inevitability that profits will be lower this year, especially when even before the protests they were already affected by the China-U.S. Trade war and Brexit.

The US and UK, Hong Kong’s main long-haul markets, showed weak growth in the first five months of the year compared to the same period last year. The latest figures available from the Hong Kong Immigration Department saw a 1.7% increase in arrivals from the United States to 539,869 from January to May, and a 0.1% increase from the United Kingdom to 258 559 visitors.

“We are certainly seeing a slowdown in our business results at our Hong Kong hotels this year, but it is the inevitable ripple effect of the global repercussions of the economic and geopolitical events that began a year ago,” said Stefan Leser, CEO of Langham. Home group.

“Some segments of our hotels in Hong Kong have experienced a downturn, such as corporate groups and incentive groups, but we are seeing that leisure travel is holding up. We are fortunate that local revenue sources such as weddings, meals and social celebrations remain strong with more inquiries and restaurant reservations for 2019 and beyond than in previous years, ”he said. he adds.

Wharf Hotels Management, which operates the Marco Polo and Niccolo Hotels hotels, is experiencing a similar development.

“It is impossible that we are not affected. However, it’s business as usual for all of our hotels, ”said Wharf President Jennifer Cronin.

“There is certainly some slowdown in demand in all segments, depending on the city’s total tourist numbers, although historically MICE [meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions] and business travel is historically slower during this period.

“There have been a few cancellations or postponements of events, but all of the major trade shows and exhibitions for which Hong Kong is world famous are still scheduled for the second half of the year.”

Like Leser, Cronin sees the leisure market holding up this summer, attributing it to a “recalibration of key market segments” for Hong Kong, such as “more leisure and a move to Asia-Pacific as activity long-haul is down compared to the US and UK.

“Marco Polo Hong Kong hotels still maintain their market share and market leading position, actively focusing on the leisure segment during this summer period,” said Cronin.

Hong Kong immigration figures show stronger growth for Hong Kong from short-haul markets (excluding mainland China and Macau) in the first five months. This increased 4.3% to 3.4 million over the same period in 2018, as long-haul markets barely increased 0.4% to 1.9 million.

Its figures for June and July are not yet available. However, ForwardKeys numbers show a faltering impact. Flight bookings to Hong Kong from Asian markets (excluding mainland China and Taiwan) fell 9% from June 16 to 29, compared to the same period last year, and fell 2.2% from June 30 to July 13. From July 14 to 20, however, it was a 13.4 percent jump.

“This left the team [at ForwardKeys] believing that people have probably delayed their reservations rather than deciding not to come, ”said a spokesperson for ForwardKeys. “Usually, domestic political unrest deters tourists. However, there is no evidence that tourists are unsafe in Hong Kong. Also, the protests took place on Sunday, so it doesn’t look like the work week was much disrupted either. “

Abercrombie & Kent in Hong Kong said it had not been affected by the ongoing protests except for “a few relevant investigations,” said executive director Gerald Hatherly.

“We receive emails, mostly from the United States, about the situation and the safety of the visit. We answer in the affirmative and explain the situation regarding the protests – that although they are ongoing, they have had no impact on tourism activities. We try to provide a balanced and honest overview and stress that the protests were peaceful and centered around government offices. In the case of the Yuen Long incident, we reported this to our international offices and that it was an isolated incident and the violence that occurred was orchestrated by members of the local triads ” , did he declare.

Reason for concern

While tourism has not been decimated by the protests, the word “still” hangs in the air as any escalation or massive violence will certainly change the stakes.

“If the protests continue and there are more reports of violence or more extreme actions by protesters and more aggressive police action, it may change the dynamic and it may well have an impact on travel. in Hong Kong, ”Hatherly said.

For now, Hong Kong’s reputation for safety and security, and its role as an international hub for travel and financial services, has helped keep things in perspective, Hatherly added, but that goodwill can go quickly. if things get worse.

“This type of uncertainty is detrimental to our business in Hong Kong and to the tourism industry in general,” said Peter Borer, COO of The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels. “We are concerned about any action that damages Hong Kong’s image and affects travelers. We hope the protests will remain peaceful. “

He added: “In terms of the outlook for the coming year, we are concerned about the impact of political protests on tourist arrivals as well as on the broader economic stability in Hong Kong. We are concerned about the effect this will have on our operating results, given that the majority of our group’s interests are based in Hong Kong [including The Peninsula Hong Kong, the Peak Tram and Peak Tower, and the Repulse Bay]. We will continue to monitor the situation. “

But Borer stressed that the group’s commitment to Hong Kong remains as strong as the Grand Old Dame Hotel in Kowloon.

“We are a group with over 150 years of history, and during difficult times like today, we have always maintained a constant focus on building a long-term sustainable business. We maintain a conservative capital structure to help protect our business against volatility. We continue to invest in improving our assets and developing our people through training, learning and development opportunities, as well as investing in technology and digital capabilities to enhance our marketing efforts. . We have innovative initiatives to drive business, including our ongoing multi-year contemporary art program, Art in Resonance, to engage customers and local visitors to our hotel, ”he said.

It’s also business as usual for Wharf, another old Hong Kong name. “Our industry is both seasonal and cyclical, so we are optimistic that there will be a market rebound,” Cronin said.

“We continue to work closely with our major corporate accounts and provide up-to-date information to ensure they are confident in their business needs for Hong Kong. Hong Kong continues to be a vibrant and vibrant city with easy connectivity to the Great Bay region and beyond, with new and ever-evolving experiences, new world-class heritage spaces, a variety of cuisines and discoveries. culinary, as well as 263 islands with some of the most spectacular hikes in the world. Hong Kong never fails to impress.

Hong Kong is not burning

Currently, Singapore and New Zealand are among the countries that have issued opinions. These are not high alerts, however; rather, they advise citizens to avoid all protests and demonstrations. The US and Canadian notices for Hong Kong remain at Level 1, in which citizens are advised to take normal precautions.

Not surprisingly, the mainstream media are berated for creating the perception of a ‘city on fire’.

“This is far from the truth,” Cronin said. “Hong Kong continues to operate normally. We all get sufficient notice of protest locations if you need to avoid these areas. “

Hatherly added, “Hong Kong is both safe and secure – there is no reason not to visit.

“I realize that the international media are talking about it and showing video clips illustrating the most aggressive actions of the police as well as the Yuen Long incident. I am not minimizing these events as they happened, and this is worrying, but they are isolated and do not correspond to the normal behavior of the police or the demonstrators. “

Ultimately, Cronin believes travelers around the world can judge better today. Paris and France have been subject to the yellow vests movement since last November, but that hasn’t stopped the world traveler from enjoying Paris or the countryside, she said.

“In a world of instant communications, I think the traveler has never been so well informed and, as a tourist, can manage their travel routes so much better. We are able to handle these situations. Hopefully we can also reverse the current perception of Hong Kong, ”she said.

Source link


Leave A Reply