HK to issue global red travel alert except for Greater China

March 17, 2020 12:40
Chief Executive Carrie Lam, with Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan, speaks to reporters on the latest developments in the fight against the coronavirus on Tuesday morning. Photo: HKEJ

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government will issue a red outbound travel alert for the entire globe, except mainland China, Macau and Taiwan, as soon as Tuesday amid the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

From Thursday, people coming to Hong Kong from any foreign country will be quarantined at home for 14 days or put under medical surveillance, Lam told reporters before attending the regular Executive Council meeting on Tuesday.

The chief executive urged all Hong Kong residents to avoid non-essential travel.

In another development, the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) plans to spend as much as HK$400 million to promote tourism and consumption in the city after the Covid-19 outbreak subsides.

Executive Director Dane Cheng Ting-yat said the amount will be used to support local and overseas travel agencies, hotels, airlines, as well as retail, dining, and Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) industries, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.

The HKTB said initial figures showed that 199,000 visitors arrived in the city in February, a drop of 96.4 percent from the same month last year.

There were only 97,000 mainland visitors in February, down 97.9 percent from a year earlier.

Short-haul markets accounted for 36,000 visitors, down 94 percent year on year, while visitors from long-haul markets fell 85.2 percent to 43,000.

In the first two months of the year, visitor arrivals reached 3.407 million, down 72.5 percent from the same period in 2019.

Before the government closed all but three border checkpoints with the mainland from Feb. 8, daily visitors arrivals were between 10,000 and 20,000, but the number had since nosedived to a daily average of 3,300, the HKTB said, adding that around 80 percent of the arrivals were not mainlanders.

But the worse is yet ahead as the HKTB expects a further drop in visitor arrivals in March.

In announcing the HK$400 million support plan, Cheng said the HKTB will focus on boosting consumer confidence and spending sentiment by providing subsidies for retail and catering businesses to implement their joint consumer promotions.

It will also waive the renewal fee for merchants accredited under the Quality Tourism Services (QTS) Scheme and offer a 50 percent discount in the application fee for prospective members.

Other initiatives include hosting travel delegations to conduct roadshows in key markets.

The HKTB said it will use part of the amount to help convention and exhibition organizers to bid for major events as well as lower the application thresholds of funding schemes set up for the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and tourism incentives.

The money for the plan will come from the proposed marketing budget for the 2020/21 financial year and the additional fund proposed in the 2020/21 budget.

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