The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) on Tuesday predicted the city will see “zero visitors” over the coming months after the government announced a ban on entry to non-residents in a bid to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking on Metro Radio, HKTB Executive Director Dane Cheng said there were only around 190,000 visitors to Hong Kong last month, equivalent to the daily number of inbound tourists during peak seasons. Cheng predicted a further decline in numbers after the entry ban kicks in on Wednesday.

hong kong international airport quarantine order coronavirus
File photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the ban on Monday following a spike in the number of confirmed cases in the city, as overseas Hongkongers returned from hard-hit countries such as the UK and US. Travellers from mainland China, Macau and Taiwan will be allowed in so long as they have not visited a foreign country in the past 14 days. All arrivals are subject to a 14-day mandatory quarantine.
First detected in China’s Hubei province, more than 382,000 people have been infected with Covid-19 globally, leading to over 16,000 have died. Hong Kong has recorded 386 infections and four deaths as of Tuesday afternoon.

February saw a 68 per cent drop in inbound and outbound flight passengers from the year before, according to the Airport Authority. Lam’s newly announced measures also included a suspension of transit services at Hong Kong International Airport.

hong kong international airport quarantine order coronavirus
Empty check-in counters at Hong Kong International Airport’s departure hall. Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

Cheng said that unlike the SARS outbreak in 2003, which was limited to a few places, no particular region has been labelled as an “affected area” during the current epidemic. He said he therefore does not expect a rebound in tourist numbers when the epidemic ends, as it would be difficult for the city to determine when to lift travel warnings and restrictions.

“A lot of regions are facing different degrees of the outbreak. Right now, it is hard to say under what circumstances Hong Kong can recover and can allow visitors to return,” Cheng said.

He added the HKTB has been preparing for several major events in October, including the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens and the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival.

Dane Cheng Hong Kong Tourism Board
Dane Cheng. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

“The most important thing, for now, is to ‘endure’ the outbreak. When the outbreak eases, the HKTB will introduce activities to encourage local consumption,” he said.

Travel agencies close

Two online travel agencies in Hong Kong have announced an end to operations due to the outbreak. Wefly wrote on Facebook last Sunday that it had to close because a winding-up petition had been filed by its major shareholder.

GoGoGo Travel, on the other hand, announced it had failed to solve the “unprecedented operation issues” during the outbreak. Its Facebook page and website are no longer accessible.

The Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong confirmed on Monday that the licenses of the two agencies have been revoked, adding that several thousand flight tickets have to be refunded.

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.