Tourists take pictures during a visit to the Avenue of Stars at Victoria Harbour in Tsim Sha Tsui. (South China Morning Post photo)
Short-haul visitor numbers to Hong Kong dropped sharply this month as the city began to feel the impact of the ongoing protests against the extradition bill.
Latest figures showed visits by tourists from Asia, excluding those from mainland China, dropped 3.3% between July 1 and July 5, year on year.
While the Hong Kong Tourism Board said tourists arrivals overall grew 4.2% for the same period, that represented the lowest weekly growth since the middle of June.
On Friday, Anthony Lau Chun-hon, the board’s outgoing chief executive, said June’s tourist arrivals, which jumped 8.5% from the same period last year, still reflected the impact of the US-China trade war.
“There were fewer visitors coming from the mainland China, Taiwan and South Korea since June, which might be because of fast information flow [on the protests],” he said. “The forward booking of air flights and hotels and other tours in Hong Kong will be challenging in the next couple of months.”
In the first six months, the city’s total tourist arrivals soared 13.9% to 34.87 million. The board estimated the full year’s total this year will be a fresh record of 65.1 million.
Since June, Hong Kong has been rocked by a series of protests, with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets to march against the now-suspended legislation.
Most of the marches started in the prime shopping district of Causeway Bay and ended in the tourist and governmental district of Admiralty, with roads blocked and business disrupted.
On July 1, when the city celebrated the 22nd anniversary of its return to China, thousands of protesters stormed the Legislative Council building in Admiralty, and vandalised its facade and key facilities. The incident, which made international headlines, left the legislature shut for at least four months.
The bill would have allowed criminal suspects to be transferred from Hong Kong to jurisdictions the city does not have any extradition agreement with, including mainland China.
Pang Yiu-kai, the board’s chairman, said it would continue marketing Hong Kong overseas to show the city was a safe place to visit.
He said major events such as the e-sports festival, cyclothon, and wine and dine festival, were scheduled for the coming months.
Lau said the trade war between the United States and China continued to hit business travel, with long haul visitors numbers down 4.1% in June from the same month last year.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared on Tuesday a state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka and five other prefectures to curb the spread of the new coronavirus after an alarming growth in cases in urban areas.