Asia Minute: Hong Kong’s Tourism Disaster

Dec 18, 2019

New Year’s celebrations in Hong Kong will be a bit more subdued than usual this year. A large show of fireworks over the harbor was canceled this week, because police say they are concerned about crowd safety. And if trends continue, there will be many fewer visitors.

For the last ten years, fireworks launched from barges have arced over the darkened skies of Hong Kong harbor — ringing in the New Year. They’ve grown to an operation costing nearly 2-million U.S. dollars, and a sponsorship opportunity for a major Chinese bank.

Not this year.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board announced Tuesday those fireworks will be canceled. A smaller set of fireworks will be launched from a series of rooftops — as long as the board can work out details with building landlords.

Other news from the Tourism Board Tuesday included word of a 56% drop in visitor arrivals for November compared to a year earlier. That’s a sharper fall than the last two months, which showed year to year declines of 34% in September and 44% in October.

That erosion of visitors is matched by Hong Kong’s hometown airline. Cathay Pacific shares that same pattern: a quickening pace of drop off for travelers into Hong Kong.

The Tourism Board is battling what it sees as misconceptions about safety in the city. It’s launching an online campaign aimed at overseas travelers called “Hong Kong is On” – with discounts and special offers.

The Board’s executive director told reporters “Hong Kong is not dangerous – it’s only inconvenient.”