Hong Kong retail hurt by protests

Wednesday, 01 October 2014
Hong Kong's ongoing pro-democracy protests are not doing anything to boost the region's economy. On the contrary, retailers and real estate developers are starting to get seriously worried as the number of tour groups from mainland China has decreased by nearly a third. In addition, the protests   will affect the Golden Week, a holiday celebrating the establishment of the People's Republic of China, which starts on October 1st and usually means millions of visitors from the Chinese mainland.

Even international visitors are staying away

International visitors who have no urgent business in Hong Kong are also hesitant to visit the region, and some international companies are limiting business travel for the time being. Cosmetics giant L'Oreal for example issued an email to its staff on Monday, banning employees from business travel to Hong Kong until October 6th.

Thousands of protesters have so far flocked to three different Hong Kong districts, interrupting traffic on key roads and causing commercial establishments like banks, jewelers and real estage agencies to close early.

"We haven't seen anything like this happen before," said Ricky Tse, chairman of the Hong Kong Inbound Tour Operators Association according to the Wall Street Journal. He added: "Hong Kong is famous for its metropolis lifestyle and is a shopping paradise for many tourists around the world. However, the continuing protests have damaged our image as a safe travel destination and could seriously affect our economy if things drag on." Tse expects a 30 percent drop in tourists from the mainland because of the protests.

In addition, sales in a city known as a shopping destination have also been affected by Beijing's anti-corruption campaign, a crackdown on lavish spending, especially on luxury products. This has led shoppers from the mainland who make it to Hong Kong to focus on houshold products and infant milk formula instead of luxury handbags and high-end fashion according to FashionMag.com.

While Hong Kong hopes that "Occupy Central", a blockade of the financial district, which will start today, will not last too long, shopping destinations elsewhere - like Japan and South Korea - are likely to benefit as wealthy Chinese and international travellers are looking for alternatives to spend their money.

Photos: Hong Kong's umbrella revolution (Bluee Panda; Pasu Au Yeung)