Tourism operators, retailers ‘staring down an abyss’ ahead of Golden Week

China’s national holiday break next week looks like offering little respite for retailers and the tourism industry hit by what is now 17 weeks of spasmodic protests which is discouraging visitors from the mainland and further afield. 

So-called Golden Week, which begins with China’s National Day celebrations on October 1 and ends on October 7, is typically the start of the peak retail season which stretches through to Lunar New Year.

In an in-depth feature on the short-term prospects for Hong Kong’s tourism industry, Bloomberg paints a gloomy picture: “[The] city’s tour guides, hotel owners and shop assistants are staring down an abyss of empty planes, vacant hotel rooms and ghostly theme parks.”

The business-news source reported Chinese group tours next week are expected to plunge by 86 per cent compared to the same period last year, citing figures from the Hong Kong Travel Industry Council.  

“Flight prices from Shanghai to Hong Kong are 38 per cent cheaper than last year’s fares and only 30 per cent of hotel rooms are booked for the holiday period.”

With foreign visitors accounting for about 50 per cent of Hong Kong retail sales, retailers relying on tourist trade – especially the luxury brands and cosmetics stores – are already reporting declines of up to 50 per cent in August, according to various sources. 

On the contrary, those retailers primarily serving the local market, such as supermarkets and fast-fashion, are much less affected. 

Yiu Si-wing, a Hong Kong lawmaker representing the tourism industry, told Bloomberg that this time last year, 70 per cent of the city’s hotel rooms were book, compared with just 30 per cent currently. He predicts a 40-per-cent decline in tourism arrivals next week. 

However, with airline bookings light, some mainlanders are reportedly adopting a wait-and-see attitude to see how serious the protest activity is during this weekend and on Tuesday before making a last-minute decision to head to Hong Kong for retail therapy if disruption to key retail precincts is minimal. 

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