The government has announced a new subsidy scheme to help the travel industry following a drop of the number of tourist arrivals owing to recent protests.

The subsidy – HK$100 million in total – would provide HK$120 cash to travel agencies for each inbound tourist who stays overnight, and HK$100 cash handout for each outbound tourist.

The subsidy will be distributed between November and next March. Each travel agency will receive subsidies for up to 500 tourists or HK$60,000.

Edward Yau
Edward Yau. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said the plan will benefit 1,700 travel agencies and around 850,000 tourists.

Yau said tourist numbers dropped owing to the recent situation in society, affecting the tourism sector.

“We hope to help with travel agencies’ short term needs,” he said.

protesters apologising Hong Kong airport
A group of protesters apologising at the Hong Kong airport on August 14, 2019. Photo: Stand News.

He said agencies can decide on their own what to do with the cash.

There have been reports on Tuesday claiming that the government may provide a HK$120 subsidy for each Hongkonger travelling abroad. Yau denied there were such plans.

Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam said the plan would not provide any benefits to residents.

Jeremy Tam
Jeremy Tam. File Photo: Civic Party.

“It is not for you – it is only for travel agencies,” he said. “Many people book their own hotels and flights nowadays, and I am not sure many would go through travel agencies.”

He also said the subsidy was low and it may not help travel agencies.

“It may only help to attract low-priced tour groups to Hong Kong – for instance, those who take bus [tours from mainland China],” he said.

Large-scale peaceful protests against a bill that would have enabled extraditions to China have evolved since June into sometimes violent displays of dissent over Beijing’s encroachment, democracy and alleged police violence. Though the bill was axed, demonstrators demands now include an independent probe into police behaviour and universal suffrage.

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Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.