As the protests in Hong Kong drag on into their fifteenth week, Bloomberg reports that the city's tourism industry has taken its biggest hit since the 2003 SARS outbreak.
Tourist arrivals in the city declined almost 40% in August from a year earlier, according to Financial Secretary Paul Chan, who published the figures in a blog post published Sunday.
That’s the biggest yoy decrease in visitor numbers since May 2003, when arrivals sank almost 70% in the midst of the disease outbreak that ultimately claimed hundreds of lives in the city, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
"Social issues in the past few months, especially the continued violent clashes and blockading of airport and roads, have seriously impacted Hong Kong’s international image as a safe city," Chan said in his post, which was written in traditional Chinese.
"The most worrying thing is that the situation is not likely to turn around in the near future."
The city’s tourism, retail and hotel industries have been seriously hard hit, Chan said. The occupancy rates of hotels in some districts declined by more than half, while nightly rates decreased 40% to 70%.
Many meetings and business trips have been postponed or moved to other places, he said.
The protests have already had a serious impact on Hong Kong's economy. Retail sales by value dropped 11.4% in July, the first full month impacted by the protests, while sentiment among small businesses has hit record lows.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s economy contracted 0.4% during Q2 from the previous period, raising the risk of a recession.
Based on figures from August 2018, a 40% drop would mean the city received about 3.5 million visitors, the lowest level in more than seven years.