Coronavirus has swept the globe with the number of those infected skyrocketing, however, China and its neighbouring countries remain the regions hit the hardest. As the fear surrounding growing infection rates continue to grow, Hong Kong’s hotel industry has been hit with a major decline in tourism.
A lifeline for the region, Hong Kong’s hotels and tourist accommodation accounts for 4.5 percent of its gross domestic product according to 2018 statistics.
However, as coronavirus rages on, the hospitality sector has seen the number of tourists arriving drop to a daily average of 3,000 compared with 20,000 for the same month last year.
Furthermore, the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, made up of 86 members running around 200 hotels said on Wednesday that occupancy as a percentage no averaged in the single digits.
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Hong Kong has hit 65, with the death toll rising to two.
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Industry insiders are blaming a growing fear from travellers for why hotels are rapidly turning into a ghost town.
The Hong Kong Tourism Board said on Tuesday the current situation is worse than during the peak of the Sars outbreak in May 2003. At that time Hong Kong was still welcoming around 10,000 visitors each day and occupancy remained in double digits.
As of this month, only 20 percent of tourist beds are occupied.
Meanwhile airlines across the world, including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, have stopped many flights to the area.
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Hong Kong authorities say they have seen a 25 percent cut in flights and 38 cruise tours have been cancelled.
Around the world, 47 countries – including the United Kingdom – have issued travel advisories against visiting mainland China, while 28 included Hong Kong as well.
Speaking to the South China Post, Michael Li Hon-shing, Executive Director of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners has described the situation as a “critical period of life or death.”
He said: “So few rooms are taken up that our members no longer gauge occupancy by percentage, but by room numbers.
“Now, many full-time hotel staff are taking no-pay leave, I will not be surprised to see businesses closing down next. February and March will be the critical period for their life and death.”
However, while the FCO has said to avoid all but necessary travel to mainland China, the same warning is not in place for Hong Kong.
The authority does warn tourists to stay up-to-date with news and follow instructions of local officials.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office currently states: “The Hong Kong SAR Government has stated that all border crossings with mainland China will remain closed indefinitely from 4 February 2020, with the exception of the Shenzhen Bay Checkpoint and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.
“All ferry crossings between Hong Kong and mainland China, and Hong Kong and Macao will also cease.
“On 5 February, the Government announced that Kai Tak Cruise and Ocean Terminals would also be closed to passengers indefinitely.
“There has also been a significant reduction in flights between mainland China and Hong Kong, though some flights are still operating.
“Separately as a result of the coronavirus, a number of airline operators have reduced capacity on their worldwide flights into and out of Hong Kong.”
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation says that hotels themselves are no more of a hotbed for the virus to fester than any other public place.
Appearing on a Coronavirus update video, Dr Carmen Dolea, Head, IHR Secretariat at the World Health Organisation explained that people who had impending travel plans should not avoid them.
“Being on travel in a hotel room is similarly an issue of practising personal protection measures,” she said.
“So, you should be careful to wash the hands properly, to use alcohol-based hand rub, make sure that the food hygiene practises are also taken into account.”
Dr Dolea adds: “There is no specific requirement for being in a hotel than being in any other place while being a traveller.
“Similar protection for regular people or regular travellers have to be taken as if for any other type of respiratory infection.”
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) backs up the World Health Organization, similarly stressing the importance of hand hygiene.
The CDC adds: “Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.”
So far, there is no clear evidence that the disease can live for an extended period of time on surfaces, and hotel staff are still being instructed to maintain optimum hygiene levels.
Experts believe that the virus is transmitted by droplets which means close contact with people that are infected.