'20,000 Tourism Jobs Could Be Lost In December'

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2020-10-30 HKT 18:46

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  • '20,000 tourism jobs could be lost in December'

Stephen Chan speaks to RTHK's Jimmy Choi

Around 20,000 jobs in the tourism sector could be lost or furloughed if the government doesn't fully reopen the border soon and continue to subsidise the industry, unions warned on Friday.

Four groups under the pro-establishment Federation of Trade Unions say tour guides have been barely getting by since the coronavirus pandemic began.

They said that once the government's subsidies stop by the end of November, more tour guides will be sacked or asked to take unpaid leave.

Sunflower Travel, a prominent travel agency, had already asked all 300 staff members to take unpaid leave from December, saying it could no longer pay its rents and staff costs.

Stephen Chan, the chairman of the Hong Kong Certified Tour Escort Association, said more workers in the sector are expected to face a harsh time ahead. He said this will include some 14,000 employees of travel agencies, around 6,000 freelance tour guides, as well as some managerial staff.

"It means we're going to die in December," he said.

Chan said he believed medium-sized agencies with around 20 to 30 staff will be hit both the hardest and the soonest.

He urged the government to continue to sustain its lifeline for travel agencies and their employees, before it rolls out a health code system and fully reopens the border with the mainland.

Sara Leung, the chairwoman of the Hong Kong Tourism Industry Employees General Union, proposed that the Tourism Board use an additional HK$700 million in funding from the government to support the industry.

In a bid to boost the struggling tourism, the government has announced it will set up a travel bubble with Singapore next month to allow people to fly between the two places without having to be quarantined.

But Chan told RTHK's Jimmy Choi that this won't be that helpful for the industry, as most people going to Singapore would prefer to travel on their own rather than joining a tour.

He also said people would be deterred from travelling to Singapore because of the expensive Covid-19 tests they would have to pay for when making use of the travel bubble scheme.

He said the best hope for the industry lies in re-opening Hong Kong's border crossings.

“The most important location [is] the mainland China. If the government can pursue the Chinese government to relax the border constraints … then Hong Kong people may visit many mainland locations. Then Hong Kong tourism may have a better time in the coming future,” he said.