Holiday season brings little cheer for HK businesses


Hong Kong, Dec 9 (IANS): Hong Kongs tourism, retail and dining sectors were bracing for the most dismal Christmas season in decades, a slump brought on by what some see as the citys worst political crisis since its return to the mainland in 1997, a media report said on Monday.

Hong Kong's anti-government protests have transformed from peaceful demonstrations into outbreaks of violence, notably in tourist, commercial and residential districts. More than 40 countries and regions have issued travel warnings or alerts about the city.

Industry leaders and analysts predict holiday business to fall sharply year-on-year, with tourist arrivals expected to drop as much as 40 per cent during the festive season, the South China Morning Post said in the report.

Retailers could suffer at least a 15 per cent decline in revenues, the experts said, and restaurant profits could fall as much as 30 per cent.

Tourism lawmaker Yiu Si-wing estimated the number of arrivals to Hong Kong during the Christmas holiday would drop 30 to 40 per cent, a drop he described as the steepest since the 1997 handover.

"Even during Sars, the effects only took place in the first half of the year. There hasn't ever been such a drop for Christmas," Yiu said, referring to the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Yiu said the city's hotel occupancy rates were higher than 90 per cent at this time last year, but this year accommodation in protest zones - such as Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok - would likely be around 30 to 40 per cent.

The South China Morning Post quoted Yiu as saying that last year a room at a three or four-star hotel could cost more than HK$1,200 ($153), but this Christmas season prices could drop 30 to 50 per cent.

To boost attendance, the Ocean Park amusement attraction gave exclusive offers to residents, allowing them to buy two tickets for HK$700, almost 30 per cent below the original price, while the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort offered 15 per cent off for locals who bought three annual passes.

Simon Wong Ka-wo, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, predicted that Hong Kong's restaurant would lose HK$3.5 billion in December, adding that residents were reluctant to dine out and less visitors would be here to spend cash.

Monday marked the six-month anniversary of the start of the protests on June 9, when an estimated 1 million people took to the streets to oppose the now-withdrawn extradition bill.

  

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