Hong Kong tourism to return to normal by July, Minister says | Coronavirus pandemic


Things could return to normal by the middle of the year as Hong Kong reopens its borders, the city’s tourism minister said.

The effects of the novel coronavirus on Hong Kong’s tourism sector are unprecedented and the city can hope to start seeing things return to normal by July, in part by trying to expand into new markets, the chief said. the tourist office to the Reuters news agency.

The coronavirus crisis crippled the economy of the global financial hub, which was already rocked by months of anti-government protests, with travel restrictions to curb the spread of infections and halt tourism.

Dane Cheng, executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, said he would focus on increasing local consumer spending, attracting more mainland visitors and promoting the city ​​in new markets such as India and Vietnam and among Muslim tourists.

“The best we could hope for would be in June and July,” Cheng said in an interview Wednesday night.

“At that point you could see things going back to normal. Reopening of the Hong Kong border, resumption of air services, it is time for us to move on and launch our recovery plan. “

The tourism sector accounts for around 4.5% of Hong Kong’s gross domestic product and employs around 260,000 people.

Cheng was speaking hours before the government announced aid measures worth HK $ 137.5 billion ($ 17.7 billion) to help businesses and people crippled by the coronavirus outbreak to stay upright.

In order to eradicate COVID-19, disease caused by the virus, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has already imposed strict restrictions, including banning all tourist arrivals and banning gatherings of more than four people.

Tourist arrivals to the city fell 96.4 percent year-on-year in February to 199,123 visitors, according to the latest data, from a 52.7 percent year-on-year decline in January. The number of visitors to the continent fell 97.8% year-over-year in February to 98,804.

“It’s something we’ve never seen before,” Cheng said.

Falling tourism helped push retail sales down to a record 44% in February from a year earlier. Sales of valuable jewelry, watches, clocks and gifts, which depend heavily on mainland tourists, fell 78.5% year-on-year in February, from a 41.5% drop in January, underscoring the scale of the destruction of demand.

“We have experienced the ups and downs in Hong Kong during different crises. Obviously, this one is the most serious we have ever encountered, ”Cheng said.

“I would say survival is important, but let’s have faith. “

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