Hong Kong August Visitors Plunge 40 Percent Year-on-Year, Hotels Half-Full: Finance Chief

By Reuters
September 9, 2019 Updated: September 9, 2019

HONG KONG–Hong Kong visitor arrivals plunged nearly 40 percent in August from a year earlier, deepening from July’s 5 percent fall, the finance secretary said as sometimes violent anti-government protests take a rising toll on the city’s tourism, retail and hotel businesses.

Hotels in some locations had seen occupancy rates drop to about half, while room rates plunged 40-70 percent, Paul Chan said, citing industry sources.

“The most worrying thing is that it does not seem that the road ahead is easily going to turn any better,” Chan said in his blog on Sept. 8.

July tourist arrivals fell 4.8 percent on the year, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, the first annual decline since January 2018 and the biggest percentage drop since August 2016.

Retail sales in July sank by the most since February 2016 amid the anti-government protests that have gripped the Chinese-ruled city for more than three months.

On Monday, hundreds of uniformed school students formed human chains in districts across Hong Kong in support of anti-government protesters after another weekend of clashes in the Chinese-ruled city. Metro stations that had closed on Sunday amid confrontations reopened.

The students, brandishing posters with the protesters’ five demands for the government, called on authorities to respond to the promises of freedom, human rights and rule of law, promised when Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997.

One of the five demands—to formally withdraw the extradition bill—was announced last week by embattled leader Carrie Lam, but protesters are angry about her failure to call an independent inquiry into accusations of police brutality against demonstrators.

Total export fell 5.7 percent year on year in July, while re-export value to the United States from China via Hong Kong declined 15.2 percent from a year earlier, he said.

Global credit rating agency Fitch Ratings on Friday downgraded Hong Kong’s long-term foreign currency issuer default rating to “AA” from “AA+,” and said it expects public discontent will likely persist.

By Donny Kwokh