Retail and tourism firms in HK feel that business will not rebound to pre-virus outbreak levels Listed retail and tourism companies do not expect any immediate boost to their businesses after the World Health Organisation's lifting of its travel advisory for Hong Kong last Friday. Senior executives at Giordano International, Hang Fung Gold Technology Group and Great Eagle Holdings' hotel subsidiary said while market sentiment would improve, tourist arrivals were unlikely to rebound to pre-Sars levels until later this year. 'Our sales in the mainland and Taiwan remain sour because of the Sars epidemic and we don't expect much change,' Alison Law, assistant to the chairman at Giordano, said. 'We probably need to wait until September to see any improvement in the situation. 'Without a full recovery of Hong Kong's tourism industry, it's unlikely we will be able to recover opportunity losses that we have incurred since March.' While business travellers might return to Hong Kong soon, it would take time for tourists to regain confidence, she said. The company's sales had dropped 30 per cent since the Sars outbreak in March and it expected the downward trend to continue. Great Eagle Hotels chairman Nigel Roberts expects its occupancy rate, which is single digit, to recover in September or October. 'I do not expect to see a huge jump in business as summer is usually a low season for us,' he said. He added that business travellers - especially those who missed trade fairs in Hong Kong and southern China because of Sars - probably would be the first to return. Giovanni Kuang, corporate investment manager for retailer Hang Fung Gold Technology, said the company was anxious to see the early recovery of Hong Kong's tourism sector and the return of mainland tourists. Last month, the company asked 300 workers to take voluntary unpaid leave, anticipating a drop of up to 80 per cent in the number of mainland visitors to its jewellery showrooms in Hunghom. But he played down the impact of the Sars crisis on Hang Fung, claiming the company's exhibition hall business accounted for only about 10 per cent of total turnover. HSBC Securities analyst Winnie Mak said red-chip China Travel International Investment Hong Kong also would not benefit in the short-term from the lifting of the travel restriction. Last month the company, which operates tours, passenger transport and theme parks in Hong Kong, said turnover at its travel-related operations had fallen 50 to 85 per cent year on year. The company warned it might incur a loss this year if the Sars problem was not contained soon. HSBC Securities forecast China Travel's earnings would drop 26 per cent to $344 million this financial year. Ms Mak said the forecast took into account Sars' impact on the company's earnings. 'Its business will not improve significantly because Southeast Asian and Japanese tourists are unlikely to get back soon,' she said.