Travelling to Hong Kong: should you take the risk?

Is the current political situation in Hong Kong putting you off travelling to the Island? Amanda Goh discusses the risks involved in visiting Hong Kong during the ongoing protests.

Amanda Goh
18th November 2019
Feature Image Credit: Studio Incendo from Flickr (CC BY 2.0) (no changes made)
Hong Kong has been in protest for more than 5 months, with their demonstrations being more violent and disruptive. While Hong Kong is still seen to be maintained and open for business, should we really be travelling there right now?

If you have been living in a hole the past few months and have no clue what is happening in Hong Kong, here is a rundown: The protests had started in June against plans to allow extradition to mainland China. The protestors feared it could undermine judicial independence. The bill would have allowed for criminal suspects to be extradited. It was also argued that the bill would give China greater influence over Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong protests had started as a peaceful protest and had slowly evolved into using violence. Over the months it has become more unpredictable and more dangerous. Lethal force has also been used multiple times.

While Hong Kong is usually an incredible place to visit, the protests are making it increasingly difficult to visit. Post-protests getting around would be simple - with their cheap and efficient transport and their ferries that runs along the edge of Hong Kong Island. But now, with the authorities shutting down the train systems in early October, it would result in tourists finding it extremely difficult to get around.

The scenes in Hong Kong have even prompted organisers to reconsider their events, however prestigious they were made out to be in the past. In October, the city's annual fireworks display was cancelled, which had an impact as it had marked the 70th anniversary of Communist Party rule in China. Other events such as the Hong Kong Tennis Open and Matilda the Musical were also cancelled.

Whilst there are still businesses that are open as usual, and you could probably visit the city without knowing that there is a protest at one side of it, it would still be extremely hard due to the closing of transit links. This also means that it is not entirely safe to get around.

Tourist arrivals in Hong Kong fell by 40% - the largest drop since the SARS outbreak in 2003

Further, since the protest, tourist arrivals in Hong Kong fell by 40% - the largest drop since the SARS outbreak in 2003. Although this is the case, Hong Kong Tourism Board PR representative Brea Burkholz stated that "visitor safety is the utmost importance for us... it's a safe and welcoming city, and there has been no violence or crime committed against tourists".

So if this hasn't swayed you into not travelling to Hong Kong at the moment, there is still a possibility to visit Hong Kong safely. For those who still want to visit, plane tickets and hotel rooms would definitely be cheaper and tourist activities would have shorter than usual wait times. However, potential tourists should check for any travel advisories before going to Hong Kong.

Further, the US State Department has issued a "level 2" travel advisory for Hong Kong. This does not mean you have to cancel your trip, rather it is noting to avoid big crowds and places where protests are likely to take place and importantly avoid wearing black t-shirts and face masks to avoid being confused with protesters.

Finally, should you actually visit? It depends on whether you see cheap flights and short queues as worth it regardless of the protests. You should also be on your toes in case of any sudden change of plans in case of protest reactions. On the Brand HK website, which is run and maintained by the city government, it stated that "[they] remain a safe, open and cosmopolitan society and an internationally connected, vibrant, and dynamic economy".

Feature Image Credit: Studio Incendo from Flickr (CC BY 2.0) (no changes made)

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