Locals shun Hong Kong as political unrest peaks

Many airlines have slashed their future flights to Hong Kong, while tourists opt for other destinations


LOCAL travellers are already scrapping Hong Kong from their holiday plan including for the Chinese New Year (CNY) festive season next year as anti-government protests continue to hurt China’s special autonomous region tourism sector.

Protests turned violent in recent weeks with the six-month political unrest hurting Hong Kong’s economy, sending the region’s financial hub into a recession. Street protests have become a daily occurrence and police have used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protestors.

Many airlines have slashed their future flights to Hong Kong, while tourists opt for other destinations.

The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents deputy president Mohd Akil Mohd Yusof said the situation in Hong Kong is really “unfortunate”.

“Our members’ clients are looking forward to have their holidays especially for the upcoming CNY (in Hong Kong), but looking at the current situation they have to change their destinations.

“I believe the travel advisory issued by our Foreign Ministry must be viewed seriously and monitoring of the updated situation is a must to ensure that we can advise potential clients about what is happening in Hong Kong,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

The unrest, which started about six months ago, plunged the city into recession for the first time in a decade. The China-US war has weighed on Hong Kong and rocked the city, widely accepted as Asia’s financial hub.

Several Asian airlines have reduced flights to Hong Kong over the coming months as the protests have disrupted the daily life in the city.

According to an industry information site, Routes Online, airlines including Scandinavian Airlines, SpiceJet Ltd, AirAsia Group Bhd and Jeju Air Co Ltd have announced their decision to reduce their flight frequencies to the region that answers to Beijing under a unique system. Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997.

Airport Authority Hong Kong reported a 13% decline in passenger traffic, and 66.1% in inbound and outbound flights in October.

It was also reported that the city’s biggest carrier Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd group chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam said its business outlook was “challenging and uncertain”.

“In response to weakened travel sentiment to and from Hong Kong, we have so far reduced our passenger flight capacity against our original schedule by 2%-4% between August and October, and 6%-7% for November and December,” he said in a statement.

He added that the demand for travel into Hong Kong remained weak in October as its inbound passenger traffic saw a year-on-year decline of 35%, consistent with the trend seen in both August and September.

Hong Kong police had fired tear gas at protesters who were trying to escape a university. Protestors had also resorted to using petrol bombs. Beijing had warned affirmative actions to curb the unrest.

Wisma Putra last week advised locals to defer non-essential travelling plan to Hong Kong.

It said Malaysians in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region may be affected by the ongoing demonstrations and protests, thus are advised to avoid any demonstration areas.

“Malaysians are advised to remain vigilant, be aware of surroundings and continue to monitor the latest developments via local news or announcements issued by the local authorities,” it said.