Business is booming.

Opinion | False narrative of Hong Kong hinders the return of Western tourists

0 8

Hong Kong tourism has been slow to return to pre-pandemic levels. While mainland China figures are recovering fairly rapidly, Western visitors have yet to follow suit. Last year saw travellers from the United States and Europe at around half the levels of 2019. UK travellers were only around 40 per cent.

It is clear that recovery will be slow going. Many factors are at play.

It is difficult to ignore the damage that pandemic controls had on Hong Kong. Travellers were forced to spend up to three weeks in hotel quarantine or even in isolation facilities like Penny’s Bay. A cancelled flight, change in policy or positive test upended travel plans. In some cases sick children were separated from parents.

This triggered an exodus that benefited Singapore, Tokyo and even home countries. Cathay Pacific struggled, resorting to lay-offs, including pilots. The airline does not expect pre-pandemic traffic levels until early 2025.

Anecdotally, some Westerners are steering clear of Hong Kong out of concern for the national security law imposed by Beijing in June 2020, and the passage of Hong Kong’s own security legislation this year. Related consular travel warnings add to the narrative.

The US advises its citizens to “exercise increased caution” when visiting, Canada warns about the “risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws” and the UK tells its travellers they “could be detained or removed to mainland China for some offences” under the NSL.

Some perhaps have stayed away due to negative and untrue Western media coverage about Hong Kong becoming just another Chinese city, or talk about the need to carry burner phones. More likely the strong US dollar, to which the Hong Kong dollar is pegged, has made Tokyo and other regional Asia travel spots cheaper destinations.

Despite all this, hundreds of thousands of tourists have visited and none of them have been arrested for national security violations. Indeed, no tourist is at risk of running afoul of these laws unless they set out to do so.

Despite the unwarranted gloom, Hong Kong remains, as before, a great city. You can hike on a wilderness trail in the morning, hit a world-class museum in the afternoon, enjoy roast goose or fish balls at a dai pai dong by evening and then hit the town’s endless nightlife. It is safe for families and children and crime rates are low – something many US, UK and European cities cannot currently boast about. Mass transit is clean and effective, including ferries to the islands.

The city has rebounded from previous health and financial crises. Indeed, a recovery is going on now. In the first quarter, Western visitor numbers climbed to 50 per cent to 70 per cent of the same period in 2019. Long-haul travellers will take more time.

Come visit. Once you see Hong Kong for yourself, you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.

Read More: Opinion | False narrative of Hong Kong hinders the return of Western tourists

2024-06-09 20:30:07

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments