A diminishing Chinese interest in Hong Kong holidays following prolonged democratic protests in the financial city has somehow kept concerns about novel coronavirus infections at bay, opined destination suppliers who have seen a plunge in Chinese inbound business.
Timothy Chui Ting-pong, executive director of Hong Kong Tourism Association, told TTG Asia that there are barely any Chinese tour groups in Hong Kong now, as group visitorship had fallen by more than 95 per cent since November 2019.
“Meanwhile, Chinese business travellers are now off work for at least two weeks over the Chinese New Year period, so flu concerns are not affecting this segment either,” added Chui.
PC Tours and Travel’s general manager, Cary Chiu, said: “New enquiries on Hong Kong are still coming in for March, and no client has brought up this issue yet. But (as news coverage on the flu issue intensifies), I believe people may start to ask more about it.”
Chiu added that most of the enquiries are for programmes that twin China and Hong Kong, starting in April, and expressed concerns that demand for both destinations would be affected if infections were to spread over the Chinese New Year period.
Travel Industry Council, executive director, Alice Chan, brushed off concerns. She said: “I don’t think the mystery flu in Wuhan will have any significant impact on inbound travel to Hong Kong because Chinese arrival numbers are very low.”
She shared that for the first 12 days of January 2020, Hong Kong received only 10 groups a day from China – and none were from Wuhan, where the first flu cases were reported.
“Furthermore, there are no confirmed cases in Hong Kong so far, plus the Hong Kong government has put in place measures at the border checkpoints to guard against the spread of the disease,” Chan added.
Update, January 23, 23:02: Hong Kong has confirmed its first positive case of novel coronavirus – a 39-year-old tourist from Wuhan who arrived in Hong Kong on Tuesday via high-speed rail from Shenzhen and was detected having fever at the border. He has been quarantined in an isolation ward at Princess Margaret Hospital, reported Reuters.