Tour guides see worst business in Hong Kong
The prolonged social unrest continued to depress Hong Kong’s retail sector and its consumption sentiment and disrupt a wide range of sectors including tourism.
The ongoing 54th Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo, the biggest outdoor fairs in Hong Kong, started on Tuesday and it will last until December 31, however, what makes organizers worry is that fewer people are coming, not only exhibitors but visitors in general.
The tour guide industry is facing a hard winter ahead of the holiday season.
“I used to make some money, but since mid-June, I have no income at all. So I live off my wife and my own savings,” said Wong Ka-ngai, chairman of Hong Kong Tour Guides General Union.
Wong Ka-ngai is a licensed tour guide and also the head of Hong Kong’s Tour Guides Union. He said more than 6,000 licensed tour guides in Hong Kong saw their livelihoods devastated when around 40 countries and regions have issued travel warnings to Hong Kong.
“Tour guides are mostly freelance for many agencies. That means they’re not regular employees and don’t have access to things like labor insurance, pension or holidays,” said Wong.
To help the industry through hard times, the Hong Kong government agreed to give agencies 120 Hong Kong dollars of subsidies per inbound tourists. But Wong said that helps little.
According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), the number of visitors to Hong Kong dropped 43.7 percent year on year to 3.31 million in October. That’s going to hurt the local economy, which is already in a recession.
As a result, the value of total retail sales in October was provisionally estimated at 30.1 billion Hong Kong dollars [about 3.84 billion U.S. dollars], down by 24.3 percent from a year ago, according to a statement of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government on Dec 2.
Hong Kong’s retail sector is facing possibly its worst time ever, and even Christmas, the traditional peak season for the sector, may not be able to reverse the trend, a recent survey, and observation by analysts show.
“I think we might not be that confident to see a pick up in the coming Christmas and Chinese new year. For Christmas, for outbound, there would be a perhaps 10 to 20 percent drop compared to last Christmas. But for inbound, that would be an even worse situation. For groups, we don’t see many bookings received by inbound travel agents. For hotel, I think they are having different kinds of promotions,” said Jason Wong Chun, the chairman of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong.
A private survey showed Monday that 97 percent of retailers in Hong Kong-registered losses during the past months starting from June, and about 7,000 retailers will likely shut down.