HK tourism leaders in plea for billion-dollar lifeline

Revenue falling even more as restrictions to combat Omicron bite, border reopening plans on hold and doubts as Hong Kong officials continue with zero-Covid strategy

HOTEL industry leaders in Hong Kong are among those calling on the SAR government to provide the beleaguered hospitality and travel trade with a HK$1 billion (about US$128,297m) lifeline as renewed Covid restrictions deal a bigger blow to business.

The calls follow attempts to reopen border crossing with mainland China being put on hold after rise of Omicron cases in Hong Kong and outbreaks in neighbouring city of Shenzhen. Hong Kong also has one of the world’s harshest quarantine requirements for residents returning from overseas.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that travel agencies were being considered in next round of relief measures with details due to be announced today.

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Revenue from room occupancy and F&B is expected to fall between 30 to 50 per cent over the Lunar New Year if the new round of Covid curbs continued, Michael Li Hon-shing, the executive director of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, told the South China Morning Post.

Li said a 5-star hotel would lose about HK$30 million per month while a 3-star property would be hit by losses of up to HK$5 million. Some 20,000 people were still employed by hotels in the city while 15,000 were still employed by travel agencies but many were on unpaid leave, the Post reported.

Tighter restrictions have been reimposed following outbreaks of the Omicron variant of Covid with no dine-in at restaurants after 6pm among the measures.

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The city’s leaders have vowed to pursue a zero-Covid policy in line with the mainland, but this is beginning to draw criticism. “We can’t reach zero Covid, but the travel industry has hit zero,” tourism sector lawmaker Percy Yiu was quoted by the Post as saying.

All but three of Hong Kong’s border crossings with mainland China have been shut since February last year, with 152 countries and regions now listed as high-risk from Covid. This has resulted in non-residents unable to enter Hong Kong from these destinations.

Gianna Hsu, chair of the Travel Industry Council, said tour agencies have seen no revenue over the past two years and putting efforts to reopen the border with China on hold has added to the pressure. Hsu wants at least HK$500 million to be allocated to help travel agencies.

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