The escalating pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong could hurt revenue generated by Golden Week, a semi-annual holiday that typically draws hundreds of thousands of tourists from mainland China. Clashes between authorities and protesters have already impacted retail sales and are expected to impact the number of tourists willing to brave the unstable atmosphere.
“We haven’t seen anything like this happen before,” Ricky Tse, chairman of the Hong Kong Inbound Tour Operations Association, told the Wall Street Journal. "Hong Kong is famous for its metropolis lifestyle and is a shopping paradise for many tourists around the world. However, the continuing protests have damaged our image as a safe travel destination and could seriously affect our economy if things drag on.”
Golden Week generally draws more than a million tourists to Hong Kong, an extra 30,000 to 60,000 of whom originate from mainland China, an analyst told the BBC. But the protests could cause a 30 percent drop in mainland tour groups -- Tse expects roughly half of the 920,000 mainland tourists who visited Hong Kong in October 2013, according to The Nation newspaper of Bangkok.
"It is believed that some visitors will postpone or even cancel their plans to visit Hong Kong for the time being," the Hong Kong Tourism Board told the BBC. “The HKTP has been closely monitoring the development of the movement.”
Police in Hong Kong have used rubber bullets and tear gas to curb demonstrations by tens of thousands citizens, creating conditions that many tourists would deem unsafe. Meanwhile, protesters have hampered street traffic and made it difficult for many retail businesses to operate. By Tuesday, 33 Hong Kong branches of 19 banks were shut down, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority said.
Local shopping malls and office buildings have lost at least HK$40 billion ($5.2 billion) due to the protests, China Central Television said, according to Bloomberg. The demonstrations have also negatively impacted the Chinese stock market – the Hang Seng Index dropped 1.9 percent on Monday and experienced its largest two-day drop since February.
“I don’t know what the hell is going on in Hong Kong,” Zheng Tian, a tourist from Ningbo, told Bloomberg. “It’s very inconvenient for me to drag my two luggages all the way to the hotel as taxi drivers refused to come to this area. Shops are closed, food is out of stock at restaurants, what am I supposed to do here?”
Other outlets, such as Ctrip, a mainland online tour operator, are more optimistic. “The main tourism destinations such as Hong Kong Disney and Ocean Park are not affected and many people are still confident that the Hong Kong authorities can maintain order,” the organization told the Financial Times. “We are explaining to [prospective tourists] that there is no big concern about safety, but we would also recommend them avoiding the places such as Central and Admiralty where demonstrations are being held.”