Hong Kong’s tour bus “cemetery”

Standing empty and redundant, hundreds of tour buses are gathering dust at a container port in Hong Kong.

They've been off the road for ten months after authorities banned all non-resident arrivals to the city due to the global health crisis.

The measure has effectively decimated Hong Kong's once booming tourism industry.

It was the world's leading tourist city last year with some 56 million visitors.

The sector accounts for about 5% of Hong Kong's GDP, but numbers have been down 96 to 99% year-on-year every month since February.

It's worrying for the some 260,000 people directly employed in the sector.

Freddy Yip is one of them. He's the president of Hong Kong's Travel Agent Owners Association, and says that once the government's wage subsidy ends in November, his business could collapse.

"My company, like other company, of course, look for the subsidy from the government" he said. "Once the government subsidy stop we need to trim down all the expenses, keep as small as possible.''

The wage subsidy program was first introduced in June and helped about two million employees in all types of industries.

The government has ruled out extending it beyond this month, citing the high cost.

One positive for the industry, though, is a travel bubble with Singapore which is due to begin this week.

It will allow a limited number of people to move between the cities.

But tour guide Mimi Cheung isn't optimistic about how much of a boost it will be and says people will be put off by the cost.

"I don't think the 'travel bubble' will help boost tourism. Singapore has many regulations and rules."

In the mean time, dozens of travel agencies have told staff to take unpaid leave from December, saying they can no longer afford to pay salaries or rent.

Video Transcript

- Standing empty and redundant, hundreds of tour buses are gathering dust at a container port in Hong Kong. They've been off the road for 10 months after authorities banned all non-resident arrivals to the city due to the global health crisis. The measure has effectively decimated Hong Kong's once booming tourism industry.

It was the world's leading tourist city last year with some 56 million visitors. The sector accounts for about 5% of Hong Kong's GDP, but numbers have been down 96% to 99% year-on-year every month since February.

It's worrying for the some 260,000 people directly employed in the sector.

FREDDY YIP: There is no hope.

- Freddy Yip is one of them. He is the president of Hong Kong's Travel Agent Owners Association, and says that once the government's wage subsidy ends in November, his business could collapse.

FREDDY YIP: My company, like other company, of course look for the subsidy from the government. Once the government subsidy stop, we need to trim down all the expenses, keep as small as possible.

- The wage subsidy program was first introduced in June and helped about two million employees in all types of industries.

The government has ruled out extending it beyond this month, citing the high cost.

One positive for the industry, though, is a travel bubble with Singapore, which is due to begin this week. It will allow a limited number of people to move between the cities without needing to quarantine once they've had a negative test.

But tour guide Mimi Cheung isn't optimistic about how much it will help and says people will be put off by the cost.

INTERPRETER: I don't think the "travel bubble" will help boost tourism. Singapore has many regulations and rules.

- In the meantime, dozens of travel agencies have told staff to take unpaid leave from December, saying they can no longer afford to pay salaries or rent.