Despite official assurances via the lacklustre Brand Hong Kong website that “Hong Kong remains a welcoming city for tourists and investors, and a safe place for travellers from around the world”, scenes of violence broadcast from the SAR’s streets, stations and even airport have done much to shape global perceptions in recent months. Type “Is Hong Kong …” into Google, and many of the search engine’s autocomplete predictions, at the time of writing, pertain to the city’s safety and airport operations – as well as to whether the tap water is potable. Hong Kong is going to need more than a lifeless landing page to save its tourism industry. On August 30, the Hong Kong Tourism Board announced that arrivals for July were down 4.8 per cent year on year while the number of tourists from mainland China had declined by 5.5 per cent. According to a recent survey conducted by the Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions, to which many travel industry unions are affiliated, the number of mainland visitors booking tours to Hong Kong has fallen dramatically since the protests began, in June . Indeed, Bloomberg reported last month that travel agents in certain Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, have been barred from helping solo travellers apply for the permits needed to travel to Hong Kong. Those wishing to visit now have to appear to officials in person so that their identity can be verified: an apparent attempt to keep a closer eye on citizens who come to Hong Kong for their holidays. All of which has resulted in a reduction in hotel occupancy, with some hospitality workers forced to take unpaid leave , and a slump in retail sales . Forecasts are even worse for August, following protests at Hong Kong International Airport that caused the cancellation of almost 1,000 flights, costing the city’s aviation industry an estimated HK$600 million (US$76.5 million). “Preliminary figures show a 30 per cent decline in the number of visitor arrivals in the first half of August,” said the tourism board, adding that bookings were down for September and October, too. However, not everyone is staying away, and nor should they. According to the Safe Cities Index 2019, published by The Economist Intelligence Unit last month, which ranks 60 cities according to criteria including crime rates, quality of health care, road safety and digital security, Hong Kong still features in the top 20, despite falling from ninth to 20th position. That puts the city ahead of Taipei (22), Kuala Lumpur (35), Bangkok (47) and several other Asian cities no one would balk at visiting. Popular tourist spots such as The Peak, the Big Buddha at Ngong Ping, Ocean Park, Stanley and the Star Ferry have been virtually untouched by the unrest and are likely to remain that way. The same can be said of Hong Kong’s hiking trails and country parks . Travellers arriving in the city over the next few months can take advantage of attractive air fares and hotel rates (some rooms in Central are going for an unheard of US$25) while shopping centres such as Elements, in West Kowloon, and Central’s IFC Mall are pleasantly devoid of people. Some people have even noted that the inspiring “Lion Rock spirit” Hongkongers are known for, perhaps having filtered back from the front lines of the protests, has infused current everyday interactions with an added warmth. Sure, visitors might now have to allow for uncertainties in their journey to the airport and avoid specific areas at specific times – such as Victoria Park, the Legislative Council Complex and the central government’s liaison office at weekends and some MTR stations when protesters are returning home – but the same goes for most cities. To prepare for what might await them in “Asia’s world city”, potential tourists could spend some time on the aforementioned Brand Hong Kong site, but perhaps it would be best to reserve judgment and see what it is like on arrival – the city is still capable of pleasant surprises. Drownings predicted as Phuket beach without lifeguards in monsoon season It is the middle of monsoon season on the Thai island of Phuket, which means rough seas, big waves and strong rip currents. Nevertheless, online news platform The Thaiger reported on September 2, the president of the Cherng Talay Tambon Administration Organisation, Ma’Ann Samran, has not renewed the monthly contract for lifeguards at Surin Beach, meaning swimmers at the popular stretch of sand will be without potentially life-saving surveillance. According to the report, as red flags, which indicate that people should not swim, were removed from the beach, a Filipino couple found themselves in trouble and had to be saved by a local surfer. A spokesman for the Southeast Asia chapter of the International Surf Lifesaving Association told The Thaiger: “Only last week there were up to 30 people pulled out of the west coastal waters because tourists keep entering the water whilst dangerous conditions persist. “Without lifeguards staffing these beaches, we will have drownings.” Air India to dispense with single-use plastic on flights On August 29, India’s national flag carrier announced it would be moving away from single-use plastics over the coming months. A spokesperson for the airline told daily newspaper The Hindu , “Air India is going to ban single-use plastic from 2 October. In the first phase, it will implement [the ban] on all Air India Express and Alliance Air flights. In the second phase, it will be implemented on all Air India flights.” Passengers can expect banana chips and sandwiches wrapped in butter paper pouches rather than plastic, while birch-wood cutlery will replace plastic knives and forks.