Hong Kong's tourist industry is suffering greatly after anti-parallel trader protests erupted in recent weeks tarnishing the city's image as a popular destination for travelers, union leaders warned.
According to statistics from the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, mainland inbound tour group registrations in February fell from 11,575 in January to 7,751, representing a 33 per cent decrease and 32.3 per cent year-on-year decline.
The first week in March saw the average daily number of inbound mainland tour groups drop to 180 from 400 in the same period last year - a staggering 60 per cent fall year on year.
Mainland tourists are not the only group reluctant to visit the city due to the recent protests.
The aggressive behaviour of protesters has made some Mandarin-speaking tourists from neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia consider postponing or even canceling travel plans to Hong Kong.
According to a Hong Kong travel agency affiliated with the Federation of Hong Kong Trade Unions in Tourism (FHKTUT), several Singaporean student travel groups cancelled their tours to Hong Kong in the past two weeks due to "political concerns".
"Tour guides are the first group to bear the bitter fruit," said Sarah Leung, president of FHKTUT.
"However, the domino effect will soon spread throughout tourism-related industries including retailing, catering and hotels."
According to FHKTUT general secretary Lam Chi-ting, the city's total labour force is 3.9 million and some 600,000 people work in tourism-related industries.
"The radical protests make it hard for an awful lot of people in this city to make a living," said Lam. He said the occupancy rates of several FHKTUT-affiliated hotels had fallen by as much as 50 per cent over the past three months.
The period from December to February, encompassing the Christmas and Spring Festival holidays, is the traditional peak season for the city's tourism industry, noted Leung. She said constant unrest in the SAR was the main cause of the steep decline of inbound tour registrations over the past three months.
Leung echoed the predictions of Yiu Si-wing, lawmaker representing the tourism sector, that the city's tourism industry could expect a 50 per cent decrease in mainland visitors this year.
Leung said protests could bring serious long-term harm to Hong Kong's tourism industry. High-end tourists were more likely to be scared off as they had much easier access to alternative travel destinations, she added.