The effects of coronavirus are being felt across the globe. With the implementation of travel restrictions in most countries, tourism in Hong Kong has temporarily been brought to a halt.
However, with signs that the virus is being overcome in some areas of the world, including mainland China where the outbreak began, Hong Kong is optimistic that tourists will soon be able to return.
In early April the director of Hong Kong’s Tourism Board explained encouraging plans for post-coronavirus recovery to international news organisation Reuters.
The Importance of Tourism to Hong Kong’s Economy
In 2019, over 55 million visitors arrived in Hong Kong. As a global financial hub, many were in the city on business whilst others were drawn to the city for tourism.
From beautiful temples to exceptional shopping and restaurants, the city has much to offer holidaymakers and for many years people from all over the world have visited Hong Kong for leisure and sightseeing.
Tourism in Hong Kong is, therefore, an important sector, making up 4.5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employing more than a quarter of a million people.
How has coronavirus affected tourism in Hong Kong?
Limitations on movement put in place to help curb the spread of coronavirus are proving to be a challenge to global tourism.
As a result, visitor numbers for the first quarter of 2020 are down, not only in Hong Kong but in major vacation hotspots across the globe.
Due to travel restrictions in Hong Kong and other parts of the world, tourist arrivals fell by 96.4% in February 2020 compared with the same period last year.
This significant drop is largely due to the lack of visitors from mainland China. As the place where the coronavirus originated and the first to experience significant restrictions on movement, tourism to the HKSAR has been suspended in recent months.
Arrivals from the Chinese mainland make up a significant proportion of the annual figures: from January to June 2019 over 30 million Chinese citizens went to Hong Kong, close to 4 times the amount from the rest of the world.
Hong Kong’s Coronavirus Recovery Plan
The executive director of Hong Kong’s Tourist Board, Dane Cheng, is confident that, with a recovery plan in place, the city can bounce back quickly.
He believes that the city can start returning to normal from July and will once again prosper, attracting a large number of tourists as it did before the outbreak.
At the beginning of April, the Hong Kong government announced a generous relief package for those businesses hardest hit by the effects of COVID-19. HK$137.5 billion (US$17.7 billion) is being set aside for businesses and residents in need of support.
It is hoped that this will save many jobs and help businesses through this difficult time until they can resume trading as normal.
Indian and Vietnam will be important new markets for boosting Hong Kong tourism
Key to Hong Kong’s recovery plan is the promotion of local consumer spending and focus on attracting tourists from a wider range of countries.
Two examples of new markets are India and Vietnam. In July 2019 25,588 Indian residents arrived in Hong Kong and 6,041 came from Vietnam, Cheng hopes that these markets can be developed significantly in the wake of the coronavirus.
One way in which the HKSAR government has been encouraging Indian travellers to visit the city in recent years is by allowing citizens of the country to stay for 14 days without a visa. To take advantage of this, Indians are required to complete the Hong Kong Pre-arrival Registration for Indians.
As this is completed online, with no need to present paperwork in person at a consulate or embassy, it facilitates access to Hong Kong and encourages Indians to visit.
Marketing Hong Kong to International Tourists
To aid the recovery efforts, the tourism board is likely to attempt to focus on encouraging people who have never been to the city to travel to Hong Kong for the first time.
It is expected that Hong Kong’s top attractions will be advertised, making people aware of the range of the city’s wide offering, from Hong Kong Disneyland for families with children to an excellent shopping experience.
Other reasons to visit Hong Kong include:
Dane Cheng believes that once air service resumes international tourists will return to Hong Kong.
What’s more, travellers from major cities such as New York, London and several of India’s main airports can take advantage of direct flights to Hong Kong International airport, yet another incentive.