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Protests, violence take toll on Hong Kong's retail, tourism

(Xinhua)    15:21, August 03, 2019

HONG KONG, Aug. 2 (Xinhua) -- Weeks of protests and violent incidents have started to dent Hong Kong's retail and tourism sectors, a key part of the economy of the Special Administrative Region (SAR).

Business owners and industry insiders expressed growing worries and uncertainties as the demonstrations and violence continued to weigh on consumption sentiment.

"Protests and violent incidents have forced me to close my shop for several weekends on end," said an owner of a seafood store in Sai Wan on the Hong Kong Island, who only gave his surname Cheung. "Sales have badly dropped and I am losing quite some money."

Cheung hoped that the demonstrations could end quickly. "It is important that the economy stays stable. We ordinary residents just want a peaceful life."

The Hong Kong SAR government said on Thursday that the value of total retail sales in June 2019 decreased by 6.7 percent compared with the same month in 2018, as local consumer sentiment turned more cautious and growth in visitor arrivals moderated.

A government spokesman said the near-term performance of retail sales will likely remain subdued, citing weakened global and local economic outlook and other headwinds.

The spokesman added that the recent demonstrations, if continued, would also dent the retail business further.

According to the Hong Kong Retail Management Association, large-scale rallies and protests have dampened Hong Kong's retail performance, with most of the members of the association recording single or double digit fall since June.

Wong Ka Wo, president of Hong Kong Federation of Restaurant and Related Trades, said weeks of protests have not only hurt visitor arrivals but also dampened consumption of local residents.

"The catering business is very important to Hong Kong. A declining willing to consume will put pressure on businesses and dent Hong Kong's economy," said Wong.

Visitor arrivals to Hong Kong totaled around 5.14 million in June, down about 770,000 from the figure in May, according to Hong Kong Tourism Board.

Hong Kong has seen steady tourism volume in the first five months of the year, but since June, the sector has been hit hard by multiple violent protests, and safety concerns mounted, said Yiu Si-wing, a lawmaker and tourism industry insider.

"Many have delayed or even cancelled their trips to Hong Kong," he said.

For Hong Kong's tourism sector, immediate recovery is not likely even if violence ceases soon, Yiu said.

But if violence continues, many of the tourism-related industries, including hospitality and retailing, will be hurting, and Hong Kong's overall economy will suffer, he added.

Michael Li, executive director of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, said the demonstrations in June have had an impact on Hong Kong's tourism, with the overall hotel occupancy rate dropping about 2 percent.

He estimated that the occupancy rate for hotels near the protest areas in the Hong Kong Island would decrease more than 10 percent in July and those in Kowloon would drop 5 percent to 8 percent.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)

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