Hong Kong businesses push for full reopening as quarantine ends

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Hong Kong businesses push for full reopening as quarantine ends

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(Bloomberg) — Hong Kong’s abolishment of hotel quarantines on arrival has prompted calls for the city to lift remaining restrictions on travelers in a bid to revive its fortunes as an international financial hub.

Business groups and analysts welcomed the move but said the government needed to provide a clear roadmap for a full reopening.Hong Kong’s economy has been devastated by nearly three years of pandemic restrictions. Residents and businesses were forced to relocate abroad. Underscoring the urgency, the report showed Singapore has overtaken the city to become Asia’s top financial center.

Travelers to Hong Kong no longer need to undergo hotel quarantine or undergo a PCR test before departure, city leader John Lee announced on Friday. Instead, the immigrant will be restricted from going to bars or eating in restaurants for three days and must be tested daily for seven days. If positive, he should be quarantined for at least seven days.

Sally Wong, chief executive of the Hong Kong Investment Funds Association, said the easing would be welcome because it would represent a significant improvement. The association includes regional companies and some of the world’s largest asset managers, including BlackRock and FIL Investment Management. “But I hope the government can shed some light on the last mile: under what conditions can we lift all restrictions and become on par with the international financial centres? ?”

Hong Kong has suffered an exodus of residents, with its population declining the most in at least 60 years in the year to June. In the latest sign of a brain drain, a survey by the Hong Kong Investment Fund Association found that more than a third of his fund managers have moved some or all of their regional and global roles from the city to other locations. was shown. Investors are also pessimistic, with the city’s benchmark stock index at his lowest in a decade.

“Hong Kong’s image abroad is at its lowest point,” said Amate Inaki, president of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce. “It will require a comprehensive plan with incentives, actions and projects to re-engage different audiences as well as change the overall image.”

Hong Kong aims to mark the city’s return to the world stage by hosting several high-profile events, including an International Bank Summit and an iconic rugby sevens tournament scheduled for November. is. Lee said there could be “more room” for the government to ease restrictions further, but did not give details. Among other rules, the city still insists on wearing masks both indoors and outdoors, with heavy fines for violators.

Hong Kong lags behind many other countries in the world in lifting its coronavirus measures, but its closest rival, Singapore, has launched a new flexible five-year visa for high-income Hong Kong residents. We take advantage of this by doing

Ben Quinlan, CEO of consulting firm Quinlan & Associates, said: .

Nomura said lifting the quarantine is unlikely to give the local retail and catering industry a big boost given that the border with mainland China remains closed. It will boost overseas travel, which will be negative for the economy, analysts led by Tin Lu wrote in a report on Friday.

Cathay Pacific’s website and its low-cost carrier’s website crumbled on Friday after being inundated with flight searches. In a sign of how isolated Hong Kong is, in the first eight months of this year, the city’s airports were able to handle just 3.4% of its passengers and 30% of its flights compared to pre-coronavirus. did.

Relaxed rules are unlikely to encourage tourist visits, according to National People’s Congress deputy and city council member Michael Tien.

“For international travelers, the removal of quarantine at hotels will be little different,” Tien said. “Hong Kong must also abolish the three-day surveillance, otherwise it would be meaningless.”

Hong Kong’s strong currency could also act as a deterrent. The Hong Kong dollar, which is pegged against the US dollar, has risen against all Asian currencies this year. This includes a 24% gain against the Japanese yen and a 5% gain against the Singapore dollar.

The city’s economy needs a shot. Officials have already lowered their full-year Hong Kong growth forecast, forecasting a potential contraction in the face of Covid-related restrictions and rising global inflation. It has been forced to keep up with successive rate hikes by the Reserve Board.

“By this stage of the pandemic, all industries and businesses are pretty exhausted,” said tourism lawmaker Perry Yu. “The tourism industry needs a full reopening timetable, otherwise nothing can be planned and prepared.”

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