2019 Saw the Collapse of ASEAN Tourism to Hong Kong

ASEAN outbound market, Hong Kong, China PRC

A mainland tourist checks out of the Empire Hotel Kowloon in Tsim Sha Tsui where a case of coronavirus was detected. Photo: Sam Tsang- South China Morning Post

The downturn of visitors’ overnights from ASEAN to Hong Kong accelerated in December with declining numbers reaching almost 80% in some cases. On average, the percentage of decline for the whole 2019 reached 19% for ASEAN travellers to the former British territory. The coronavirus crisis is likely to further depress tourism for the first months of 2020. 

Protests, riots and by the end of the year, rumours of the flu spreading in Mainland China. Hong Kong has seen its tourist arrivals contracting at high speed since the middle of the year when the first acts of defiance against the government of the semi-autonomous territory started.

With Asians prompt to cancel a holiday in areas perceived as unsafe, Hong Kong experienced a sharp decline of its tourist arrivals. The former British territory recorded 55.9 million visitors’ arrivals, down 14.2% over 2018. However, the trend was even worse for overnight visitors. In December alone, total overnight visitors declined by 57.2% while the total for 2019 shows a decline of 18.8% at 23.75 million travellers – compared to 29.26 million the year before.

ASEAN countries performed particularly badly. In December, arrivals from Vietnam collapsed by 79.7% while those from Singapore were down by 73.7%. Thailand outbound travellers were down by 65.7% in December and Malaysia by 62%. Only the Philippines showed a relative resilience with total arrivals “only” down by 24.9%. in total, the six ASEAN countries monitored by the Hong Kong Tourism Board generated a total of 2.01 million overnight visitors, down 19.03% over 2018, when Hong Kong welcomed 2.48 million of ASEAN tourists.

Due to a large Filipino community, Philippines overnight visitors performed best compared to other ASEAN countries, down only by 4.5% with 730,000 overnight travellers. Indonesia was the second-best performing market with total overnight visitors down by 16.% to 285,000 arrivals followed by Thailand, down by 21.5% with 353,000 tourists. Outbound from Vietnam in 2019 declined by 22.4% to reach only 42,000 arrivals compared to 54,000 in 2018. Malaysia and Singapore were the worst performing countries from ASEAN in 2019 with total overnight visitors down respectively by 29.6% and 32.4% to 276,000 and 325,000 arrivals.

Unfortunately, there is no return in fortune for Hong Kong tourism to be expected at least for the first quarter. Despite the quasi-closure of the border to Mainland Chinese travellers, the fact that Hong Kong is part of China will weight negatively on total tourist arrivals.