HONG KONG (AP) – Visitor numbers in Hong Kong fell nearly 40 percent in the second half of last year amid clashes between police and anti-government protesters.
The Hong Kong Tourism Council said on Wednesday that the number of people visiting the Asian financial center began to fall in July, as protests against the proposed legislation allowing extradition to China.
In the last six months of 2019, visitor numbers fell by 39% over the same period last year. Overall, arrivals decreased by 14% throughout the year. The protests have waned amid mass arrests by police and since major opposition wins in the district council elections in November.
Hong Kong's economy went into recession, its reputation as one of the safest cities in the world marred by violence largely caused by anger over China's invasions of the rights held by the former British colony when Beijing took control in 1997. Extradition legislation has been withdrawn. The protest movement was transformed to include demands for greater democracy and an investigation into police tactics.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan told a forum on Monday that the government estimates economic growth for 2019 will fall to -1.3%, a big loss for the center of commerce, travel and finance.
The tourism, catering and retail industries suffered the biggest losses, with store receipts falling 26% in October and November over the same months of 2018.
However, the chairman of the tourism council Y.K. Pang was quoted as saying in a press release on Wednesday that he had "every confidence" in Hong Kong's resilience and appeal as a world-class travel destination. The board said it has launched promotional events and special offers covering hotels, flights, shopping and attractions.
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