When the economic downturn hits ticket sales for the Rugby Sevens, it is a good indicator of the uphill struggle facing Hong Kong while the regional crisis continues. The overnight queue of those ready to forego a night's sleep in order to secure a seat is one of the annual rituals of the city. But this year, half the allocation is unsold. It may be that there are fewer rugby fans in post-handover Hong Kong, but that does not account for such a drop in support. Rugby officials report that the biggest fall is in blocks of tickets sold to travel agents and residents buying seats for friends abroad. That is the most worrying sign. There has never been a better time for visitors to come here. Airline companies have been competing for weeks to undercut fares. But bargain flights are available right across the region, and other places are able to offer cheaper deals when visitors arrive, because of their currency devaluation. It is not the fault of the Tourist Association that Hong Kong is now rated the third most expensive place in the world for foreigners to live. Hotel prices are high, eating out is expensive, and goods are often cheaper at home. For tourists who believe they have come to the capital of cut-price shopping, the truth can be very sobering. Even if the tourist industry can revamp its image and lure visitors with the promise of new attractions, it will be almost impossible to compete with prices in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Inflated property values are behind the woes. Rents have pushed costs up to insupportable levels and until the property market adjusts, all other costs will remain high. Foreign companies are going elsewhere to set up offices, others who have been here for years are moving out to save on overheads. It is true that Hong Kong is likely to be first out of the crisis, but while neighbours are forced to change their business practices, Hong Kong must reassess the value it has put on its property market and service-based economy. The message, not just from the Rugby Sevens, is that the SAR must avoid pricing itself out of the game.