August 9, 2022

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Hong Kong: How tourism has changed since return to China | DW Travel | DW

Several Hong Kong residents these days may not really feel like celebrating at all when the 25th anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule is marked. This is thanks on the one particular hand to the efforts of the Chinese government to increase its influence in Hong Kong and to suppress the democracy motion, an effort and hard work that has been escalating for years. On the other hand, the COVID-19 pandemic has strike the metropolis tricky and introduced one particular of the pillars of its economic climate, tourism, to a virtual standstill.

Zero-COVID policy has devastating penalties

“Till 2019, Hong Kong was one particular of the world’s most-frequented cities,” says Wolfgang Ehmann of the German Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. Even so, due to demanding pandemic journey constraints, some of which are even now in pressure, the sector collapsed wholly.

In all of 2021, the official selection of visitor arrivals was just 91,000, Ehmann said — compared with almost 56 million in 2019. “This shows how devastating the repercussions of the zero-COVID coverage have been, and carry on to be, for tourism in Hong Kong.”

In Hong Kong, rigorous COVID-19 rules keep on to implement, these kinds of as putting on deal with masks in general public parts

On Hong Kong’s streets, the huge range of reduced shutters, and closed stores and places to eat in the shopping facilities, are evidence of how terribly the economy has been hit by the absence of visitors.

According to formal figures, tourism would make up circa 5% of the city’s gross domestic products. There are a lot more than 300 accommodations, and the sector specifically employs some 260,000 individuals.

Most tourists from mainland China

The tourism industry has transformed tremendously around previous a long time. “Searching tourism is incredibly critical in Hong Kong now,” says Jianli Chen, owner of the Hamburg-primarily based firm China Hansa Travel, which organizes excursions to his property region. “Chinese visitors from the mainland now enjoy a a lot even larger purpose than international tourism.”

Official figures bear this out. In 2017, for example, 76% of all readers came from mainland China. Highly-priced watches, extravagant bags, branded merchandise of all kinds — that’s what wealthy mainland Chinese are wanting for in Hong Kong, Chen explains.

Two young Chinese women with shopping bags in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is preferred as a shopping place with mainland Chinese

The truth that this kind of purchasing journeys — often only day excursions — are attainable is a immediate outcome of the city’s rule getting returned to China. Starting up in 2003, the Chinese point out commenced issuing visas that allow person excursions to Hong Kong. Due to the fact then, pretty much 300 million Chinese have designed use of them.

Hans-Wilm Schütte, a Chinese scholar and creator of many journey guides on China and Hong Kong, remembers times when this was not probable. “Vacationers in Hong Kong used to be Americans, Japanese, at times a couple Europeans,” he claims. “The fact that so many mainland Chinese occur right now also has to do with [Hong Kong’s] handover to the People’s Republic of China.”

China and Hong Kong flags decorate a highway bridge in Hong Kong

These times, the city is adorned with Hong Kong and People’s Republic of China flags

Critics warn of autonomy undermined

That handover officially concluded on July 1, 1997, just after several several years of wrangling. Immediately after the so-named Opium War in 1841, rule of Hong Kong was in the arms of the United Kingdom. The city subsequently made into an critical military services base and trading heart. In the course of Environment War II, Japanese forces occupied the town, and afterward Hong Kong grew into an financial powerhouse, thanks in portion to Chinese business owners who experienced fled Mao’s Crimson Brigades.

But Hong Kong’s autonomy is being more and more eroded. In 2020, a controversial “safety legislation” arrived into power that gave the Chinese governing administration leeway to supress totally free speech and democracy protests there, and which carries on to serve as the foundation for arrests of routine critics.

In London, a man demonstrates with a banner for more democracy in Hong Kong

Dozens of regime critics collected in London on June 12 to exhibit for far more democracy in Hong Kong

In 2014, tens of hundreds of people took to the streets in so-referred to as “umbrella protests” to demand more democracy. Also in 2019 and 2020, the city noticed a sequence of pro-democracy demonstrations.

Despite the fact that the demonstrations were being mostly peaceful, Chen believes this has impacted tourism — he’s persuaded that quite a few tour operators only just take Hong Kong off their itineraries when there is any sort of unrest there.

China’s President Xi Jinping to attend celebrations

The metropolis experienced extensive been the gateway to China for Western tourists hovever, this has adjusted.

“Hong Kong tourism from Europe has turn out to be much less,” suggests Chen. As a short while ago as the 1990s, he utilized to regular three journeys a yr to Hong Kong as a tour guidebook.

“The vintage route for round journeys to China started and finished in Hong Kong,” claims Chen. On the other hand, with the progressive opening up of China, this has step by step altered.

A poster celebrating the 25th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule is seen in Central Hong Kong

Dozens of activities are planned to mark 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule

In the meantime, recovery of the tourism business is still not in sight. Hong Kong travelers continue on to be subjected to strict COVID-19 limits that incorporate various exams and extensive hotel quarantines.

Celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of the return of the town are, having said that, possible to be lavish. China’s President Xi Jinping will also be current, and is envisioned to attend several formal activities.

This report was originally created in German.