Hong Kong demonstrations hit the tourist economy

Anti-extradition bill protesters walk through Sham Shui Po neighborhood in Hong Kong. (Reuters)
Updated 12 August 2019

Hong Kong demonstrations hit the tourist economy

  • A Hong Kong Tourism Board spokesperson said the number of forward bookings in August and September has “dropped significantly,” suggesting the economic toll will linger throughout the summer season

HONG KONG: Empty hotel rooms, struggling shops and even disruption at Disneyland: Months of protests in Hong Kong have taken a major toll on the city’s economy, with no end in sight.
City leader Carrie Lam has warned that the international financial hub is facing an economic crisis worse than either the 2003 SARS outbreak that paralyzed Hong Kong or the 2008 financial crisis.
“The situation this time is more severe,” she said. “In other words, the economic recovery will take a very long time.”
The private sector, in particular the tourism industry, has begun counting the cost of more than two months of demonstrations that erupted in opposition to a bill allowing extraditions to China but have morphed into a broader pro-democracy movement.
The figures are stark: Hotel occupancy rates are down “double-digit” percentages, as were visitor arrivals in July. Group tour bookings from the short-haul market have plunged up to 50 percent.
“In recent months, what has happened in Hong Kong has indeed put local people’s livelihoods as well as the economy in a worrying, or even dangerous situation,” warned Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s secretary for commerce and economic development.
The city’s tourism industry says it feels under siege.
“I think the situation is getting more and more serious,” said Jason Wong, chairman of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong.
The impact is so bad that travel agents are considering putting staff on unpaid leave as they try to weather the storm, he warned.
Images of increasingly violent clashes between masked protesters and police firing tear gas in the city’s streets have made global headlines, with protesters announcing new demonstrations throughout August as they press their demands.
A Hong Kong Tourism Board spokesperson said the number of forward bookings in August and September has “dropped significantly,” suggesting the economic toll will linger throughout the summer season.
A string of travel warnings issued by countries including the United States, Australia and Japan is likely to compound the industry’s woes.


UAE central bank backs anti-money laundering

Updated 25 September 2020

UAE central bank backs anti-money laundering

  • Move to safeguard financial stability in COVID-hit economy

DUBAI: The UAE central bank has said that banks should increase anti-money laundering efforts to safeguard financial stability in the country.

“To mitigate the risk of financial crimes . . . banks are urged to put more efforts towardcombating money laundering and financing of terrorism,” it said in a statement.

The bank said more than 300,000 individuals, close to 10,000 small and medium enterprises, and more than 1,500 private companies, had benefited from a 50 billion dirhams ($14 billion) liquidity scheme introduced to cushion against the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday, the UAE reported its highest daily number of coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic.

FASTFACT

 

The UAE Central Bank expects the country’s economy to contract by 5.2 percent this year.

In a separate report, the central bank said this week that the UAE economy would likely contract by 5.2 percent this year, revising down a previous 3.6 percent contraction forecast, as virus containment measures hurt sectors such as trade and tourism.

It said that manufacturing production shrank “due to supply chain disruptions, limited export opportunities and subdued domestic demand.”

The UAE said on Thursday that it would resume issuing visas to foreign visitors to all seven of its regions after a six-month suspension imposed due to the pandemic, state media reported.

Dubai, the region’s tourism and business hub and one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, had already lifted its own visa ban in July.

The Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship said in a statement carried in state media that the decision was taken as part of the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in the Gulf state as well as efforts to support economic recovery plans.

All six Gulf Arab countries have lifted internal curfews and lockdowns, but restrictions on gatherings and foreign travel remain in the oil-producing region, where the total number of COVID cases stands at more than 800,000, with more than 6,800 deaths.