Business Scene: Tourism & Trade Wars

Business Scene: Tourism & Trade Wars


This is Business Scene. I’m Ira Mellman. Hong Kong’s government is worried about its vital tourism industry after five months of protests, but tourists express their optimism about visiting the besieged city. I was surprised at the hotel prices so that was good, quite a positive, and the flights too. Tourist numbers to the metropolis began to drop in July by about five percent year-on-year. In August, it plunged by nearly 40 percent. Ronald Wu is chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents. With such a dramatic drop, it’s certainly a difficult time for not only the tourism industry but also for the retail, the hotels and pretty much I would say the entire of Hong Kong is currently going through a very, very difficult time. The government announced 12 million U.S. dollars in subsidies to travel agencies, and relevant industries such as hotels, airlines and retail, all of which have lost business since the unrest broke out in June. The plan is expected to start in November, and run until March of next year. The subsidies are given to travel agencies rather than tourists, so some are wondering how this plan can encourage more tourists to visit Hong Kong. Many like this tour guide agree that the key to reviving Hong Kong’s tourism is not money, but the restoration of peace and order as soon as possible. Hotels on Thailand’s most popular holiday island have been forced to slash prices with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as tourist chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors, caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht. Known for its beaches and nightlife, sun-drenched Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year after Bangkok and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry. Tourism accounts for 18 percent of Thailand’s gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals. But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, numbers for January-September were down almost a fifth on a year. The problem is not just in Phuket; seaside resorts of Pattaya on the mainland and Koh Samui island are also struggling to fill rooms. Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen around 10 percent against the yuan this year. Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market. A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards. But for now, the lower arrival is evident on the streets of Phuket. For VOA Business Scene, I’m Ira Mellman.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *