Hong Kong’s air traffic tumbles as protests deter visitors

Protesters demonstrate against a controversial extradition bill at Hong Kong airport. (Twitter pic)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s air traffic declined last month as protests took a toll on the city.

Hong Kong International Airport handled 6 million passengers in August, down 12.4% from a year earlier, according to figures published by the Airport Authority on Sunday.

It said the decline was mainly due to lower visitor numbers. There was also a “significant” fall in passenger traffic to and from mainland China, Southeast Asia and Taiwan, it said.

“In the past few months, there have been huge challenges to airport operations at times,” C K Ng, executive director of airport operations, said in the statement.

The airport has become a focal point of the more than three months of unrest in the city, with protesters staging sit-ins and at times bringing operations to a halt.

The airport authority has since obtained injunctions against people holding demonstrations there and blocking roads.

Tourism to Hong Kong declined almost 40% in August from a year earlier, Financial Secretary Paul Chan wrote in a blog post last weekend.

That’s the worst drop since the 2003 SARS epidemic. Chan wrote Sunday that the government would increase annual spending on construction in areas such as public housing and hospitals to HK$100 billion (US$12.8 billion) over the next few years.

Airport Authority Hong Kong also said that cargo throughput in August fell 11.5% from a year earlier to 382,000 tons. It cited global trade uncertainties for the drop.

For the first eight months of the year, cargo throughput fell 7.4% on-year to 3.08 million tons, while passenger numbers edged up 0.3% to 50.6 million.