Hong Kong experienced a two-digit percentage drop in tourist numbers right after the Mong Kok unrest, chairman of the Hong Kong Tourism Board Peter Lam Kin-ngok has said. He was speaking during the Panel on Economic Development at the Legislative Council on Monday.

Clashes in Mong Kok broke out on February 8 over the government’s attempt to clear street hawkers. Lam said that after the incident, many tourists chose to go to Macau during the same period instead. He cited that Macau experienced a 4.7 percent rise in visitors.

File photo: HKFP.

He added that travellers had called the Tourism Board asking if Hong Kong was safe to visit, saying that the incident had a great effect on Hong Kong’s image.

Last Monday, Hong Kong Tourism Board’s Executive Director Anthony Lau Chun-hon also said that the Mong Kong unrest had “a very negative impact on Hong Kong’s image.”

“We also received inquiries from tourists who wanted to know more about the incident, and at the Visitor Centre, most tourists asked if Mong Kok was safe to visit,” he said.

Tourism Board Chairman Peter Lam Kin-ngok.

Downward trend predates unrest

According to figures released earlier by the Hong Kong Tourism Board, the number of tourists visiting Hong Kong has been falling for seven consecutive months. A total of 5,666,362 tourists visited the territory last December, of which a total of 3,721,049 were mainland Chinese. These figures respectively represented a 10.7 and 15.5 percent decrease since December 2014.

Lam said that overall there was a year-on-year decline of 1.8%, with 5.8 million tourists visiting the territory this year as compared to 5.93 million in 2014.

The Tourism Board said that it took steps to add information on social media saying that it was an isolated incident and that Hong Kong is still safe for travel.

Chantal Yuen

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.