Hong Kong is paying a steep price as visitors are spending their vacation funds elsewhere rather than risk getting caught in the middle of protests. And across the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan is also feeling the squeeze as tourism has dropped significantly since the unrest began in June.

The numbers tell the story. Passenger traffic at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) is down 12.4% from 2018 according to the Airport Authority (AA). Cargo shipments are down by 11.5%. Transshipments (shipments to an intermediate destination) are down 19% while imports declined by 15%. And dozens of countries have issued travel warnings for Hong Kong.

The AA’s executive director of Airport Operations, C.K. Ng, said in a statement, "In the past few months, there have been huge challenges to airport operations at times. Thanks to the concerted efforts of the airport community, we managed to maintain normal operations and minimize impact on travelers."

Hong Kong’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific and its regional sister Cathay Dragon have been particularly hard hit by the events of the past few months. Employees and top executives were fired or forced to resign when it was discovered that they supported the pro-democracy movement. In August, there were three incidents where depleted oxygen bottles were found that had been tampered with.

Adding to the airport’s August woes, protesters targeted the airport terminal and effectively closed the airport. At one terminal, the protestors ditched their normal black shirts for non-descript attire to blend in with other passengers. They may have been carrying forged travel documents to befuddle security personnel and innocent travelers.

Ronald Lam, the new Group Chief Customer and Commercial Officer for the airline said August was an "incredibly challenging month, both for Cathay Pacific and for Hong Kong. Overall tourist arrivals into the city were nearly half of what they usually are in what is normally a strong summer holiday month, and this has significantly affected the performance of our airlines. Our inbound Hong Kong traffic was down 38% while outbound was down 12% year-on-year, and we don't anticipate September being any less difficult."

Labor Union leaders told CNN Business that restaurants are laying off workers and forcing them to take unpaid leave. Empty hotel rooms and empty tables at restaurants mean that maids, waiters, chefs, and dishwashers have no work. According to one union at least 700 restaurant workers have lost their jobs since June. Democracy is not easy, nor is it cheap.

The cancellations are compounding misery for Hong Kong's tourism sector which has been battered by the protests The cancellations are compounding misery for Hong Kong's tourism sector which has been battered by the protests Photo: AFP / Anthony WALLACE