Passenger traffic at Hong Kong International Airport saw a year-on-year decline of 68.9 per cent last month as tourists avoided visiting Hong Kong and China and airlines cut flights amid the Sars outbreak. Passenger throughput was 909,000 and the number of passenger flights for the month was down 33.6 per cent. However, growth in export markets such as Taiwan and Europe lifted cargo traffic by 3.1 per cent year-on-year to 203,000 tonnes. Total cargo handled in the past 12 months rose 18.6 per cent to 2.55 million tonnes, as US companies moved to restock inventories. The Airport Authority of Hong Kong said the decline in passengers and passenger flights sped up after the World Health Organisation issued a warning in early April urging passengers to postpone visits to Hong Kong and southern China. The short-term outlook remained negative due largely to uncertainty over progress in combating Sars on the mainland, it said. Airport Authority chief executive David Pang said: 'It is still too early to say that we are past the lowest point in terms of the impact of Sars on our business.' The authority said the outlook for cargo traffic for this month was uncertain with signs of slowing down in traffic over the course of April due to weakness in regional economies affected by Sars.