Fewer Malaysians travelling to Hong Kong

MAB confirms a marginal decline in flight bookings to Hong Kong due to the ongoing public demonstrations


SOME Malaysians are already shunning Hong Kong with the national carrier confirming a drop in travellers as the continuous anti-government demonstrations take a toll on various sectors at the former British colony.

An initial protest over a bill that would allow Beijing to extradite Hong Kongers back to mainland China has spiralled into a political crisis at one of Asia’s financial hubs.

Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) confirms a marginal decline in flight bookings to Hong Kong due to the ongoing public demonstrations which started five months ago.

The national carrier said the protests had also affected the ground travels into and out of the city’s international airport.

“MAB has seen a slight dip in forward bookings to the city,” the company told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) in an email reply yesterday. But the carrier did not provide figures on how huge the drop was.

The demonstrations which are known as the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement started on March 31. But the peaceful protests had turned violent many times as millions of people flooded strategic locations to demand greater freedom in the territory.

Hong Kong International Airport pulled the shutter for two days in August after demonstrators sought to cripple the country’s economy by staging a demonstration at the international gateway. Hundreds of planes were grounded following the temporary shutdown.

Hong Kong visitor arrivals also plunged almost 40% in August compared to a year ago as the city’s tourism, retail and hotel businesses crippled by the anti-government protest.

The Consulate General of Malaysia in Hong Kong and Macao in a Facebook posting on Sept 3, advised Malaysians in Hong Kong to stay away from public demonstrations and to leave the affected areas if situations worsened.

“Malaysians in Hong Kong are advised to be aware of your surroundings, monitor developments on local news and comply with the relevant announcements by the local authorities,” it said.

The office also advised Malaysians who are planning to travel to Hong Kong in the immediate or near future to consider rescheduling their travel.

“The consulate has also responded with the same notice to direct enquiries from Malaysians to the consulate. We have updated this notice periodically based on the developments on the ground. We continue to do so,” it added in an email reply.

Travellers are also advised to check their flight status with respective airlines to confirm their departure flights from Hong Kong International Airport.

Budget carrier AirAsia Bhd declined to comment whether flight bookings to Hong Kong had been impacted due to the political crisis.

News report said occupancy rates in some hotels in Hong Kong had halved while room rates dropped between 40% and 70%.

The city’s Tourism Board stated that July tourist arrivals fell 4.8% on the year, recording the biggest percentage drop since August 2016.

Fitch Ratings Inc had cut the city’s ratings from AA+ to AA, the first downgrade since China regained sovereignty over the continent’s financial hub in 1997.

The rating agency also cut the city’s outlook to “negative” due to the ongoing demonstrations and events which affected the international perceptions surrounding the city’s governance system and rule of law.

TMR had also reported that about 500 properties in Malaysia had been bought by Hong Kongers as they sought to escape a potential backlash in the territory.

Beijing had warned that it would take stern action against any move to separate Hong Kong from China.

Hong Kong was returned to China with the former administered under the “one country, two systems” policy. Unlike the socialist mainland, Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of autonomy and freedom. But the bill, which is now buried, had stirred anger among its population.

The demonstrations have impacted Hong Kong’s economy which is expected to slide into a technical recession if the situation persists.