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Hong Kong, world’s most visited city, faces tourism bust

Hundreds of parked tour buses are gathering dust at a northern Hong Kong container port, having been off the road for 10 months since authorities banned non-resident arrivals into the city due to the new coronavirus.

The area has turned into a “bus cemetery,” said Freddy Yip, president of Hong Kong’s Travel Agent Owners Association. He said the former British colony – which was the world’s leading tourist city destination last year – faces a similar fate at the end of November, when the government ends a wide-ranging wage subsidy programme that has helped about 2 million employees in all types of industries.

The programme was introduced in June and renewed in September, but the Hong Kong government has ruled out an extension beyond the end of November citing the high cost, leaving many tourism-dependent businesses on the brink of collapse, unable to find other revenue sources and unable to pay wages.

“If they cannot see any light ahead of them, they will just stop and cut their losses,” said 70-year-old Yip, who has worked in the trade for nearly 50 years. 

A spokesperson for the Hong Kong government said it would “keep a close watch on the latest situation and respond in a timely manner,” but gave no further details.

About 56 million people visited Hong Kong last year. The city was ranked number one for arrivals globally in 2019 by research company Euromonitor International. Visitors, most of them from mainland China, are drawn to its vibrant mix of cultures, dramatic harbour views and world-class shopping.

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