As protests in Hong Kong enter their 15th week, tourism in the city has plummeted to a level not seen since the SARS epidemic in 2003, when the rate of visitors declined by almost 70 percent and claimed hundreds of lives.
The number of visitors in August saw a 40 percent decline, compared to one year ago; according to August figures, that’s a drop of roughly 3.5 million visitors, reaching it’s lowest numbers in seven years, reports Bloomberg. This is in stark contrast to last year, when the city was one of the world’s most visited destinations, receiving 30 million visitors.
The city’s economy has dropped 0.4 percent in its second quarter from the previous period, resulting in declines in other industries, as well, such as retail, hospitality and housing. Retail sales by value was down 11.4 percent in July, while overall sentiment for small businesses has reached an all-time low. Hotel occupancy rates have fallen more than half, and hotel rooms rates have plummeted to 40–70 percent. Home prices have also sunk by up to 70 percent.
In August, protesters caused the Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), one of the world’s busiest airports, to cease operations for several days, during which hundreds of flights had to be cancelled.
Protests show no signs of ceasing, despite Chief Executive Carrie Lam withdrawing the extradition bill that started the protests in the first place. Financial Secretary Paul Chan lamented the city’s state of crisis in a blog on Sunday. “Social issues in the past few months, especially the continued violent clashes and blockading of airport and roads, have seriously impacted Hong Kong’s international image as a safe city,” he wrote.