Hong Kong travel bubbles
Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
With tourists unable to enter the city, Hong Kong’s travel agencies are pushing the government to create so-called travel bubbles with such neighbouring destinations as Macau and Guangdong province. Photo: Winson Wong

Coronavirus: reeling tourism sector pushes Hong Kong government to step up efforts to create ‘travel bubbles’ with neighbours

  • ‘Even giving a date when people can start to travel would ease the worries of tour companies,’ industry representative says
  • With borders shut and tourism at a nadir, others describe dependence on wage subsidies to pay staff
Hong Kong’s tourism industry is desperately urging the government to set-up “travel bubbles” with neighbouring regions as a lifeline, warning the hard-hit sector will need an extended period to recover from the near-total shutdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The creation of travel corridors between countries, which jointly agree to drop quarantine requirements for each others’ residents, is something the Hong Kong government has suggested could take place with destinations that have done well in containing Covid-19.

Representatives of numerous travel agency groups met with reporters on Tuesday to describe their plight and call for the swift creation of ‘travel bubbles’ with neighbouring destinations. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

But it was still unknown when such a bubble might be formed between Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland’s Guangdong province, despite the pandemic slowing in these regions,14 tourism sector representatives said on Tuesday.

The group, which represents numerous travel bodies in the city, had been pushing the governments of both Hong Kong and Macau to expedite the resumption of travel between the two cities since the end of April, tourism lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said.

Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong consider ways to create a ‘travel bubble’

“At the very least, we hope travel between Hong Kong and Macau can resume within this month or next,” he told reporters following a meeting with commerce secretary Edward Yau Tang-wah, adding that tourism between the two regions was crucial to paving the way to recovery.

On Monday, Yau said the government was actively seeking to form travel corridors with other destinations with similar levels of success in containing the pandemic.

Further flung countries under consideration include Thailand, Japan and South Korea, he said, without offering a timeline for when the necessary agreements might be completed.

Coronavirus restrictions preventing international travel has brought Hong Kong’s tourism industry to a near standstill. Photo: Winson Wong

Hong Kong marked the fifth day in a row with no local Covid-19 infections on Tuesday, with the tally remaining at 1,107 and death toll at four.

Neighbouring Macau has recorded only 45 Covid-19 infections.

Jason Wong Chun-tat, chairman of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, said he believed the government was working to find ways to resume travel, but that plans had been delayed by the recent cluster of infections at the Lek Yuen public housing estate in Sha Tin.

Tour companies will struggle to survive if the government keeps the borders closed
Perry Yiu, Hong Kong Travel Agents’ Relief Alliance
The Hong Kong government last week extended restrictions on movement in and out of the city until July 7, while keeping other social-distancing measures in place, making it difficult for tour agencies to operate.

“Tour companies will struggle to survive if the government keeps the borders closed. Even giving a date when people can start to travel would ease the worries of tour companies, as they can at least make plans to promote tours to Macau or even Guangdong,” said Perry Yiu, convenor of the Hong Kong Travel Agents’ Relief Alliance.

Hong Kong tourism all but collapses as arrivals drop 99 per cent

“We think there is still a long road to recovery,” Yiu said, adding that travel companies had been operating with little to no income for months, and wage subsidies offered by the government’s coronavirus relief fund were barely helping companies scrape by.

In the first four months of this year, tourist arrivals plummeted 85.3 per cent to 3.49 million year on year. Hong Kong is part of a wider global lockdown, with at least 65 worldwide airlines slashing flights by about 95 per cent in April and May.

The city also suffered a 8.9 per cent contraction in gross domestic product during the first quarter as it reels from the combined impact of the US-China trade war, last year's anti-government protests and the coronavirus pandemic.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Desperate tourism industry pushes for ‘travel bubbles’