Hong Kong News

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Saturday, Sep 19, 2020

Hong Kong needs visitors more than ever - here's why now is the time to go

Looking at Telegraph Travel's best hotels in Hong Kong, prices for a standard double room at the prestigious Mandarin Oriental are down by nearly one third, from £378 a night to £265. Fantastic five-star Hotel Icon, which has a splendid harbour view swimming pool and an award-winning restaurant, has doubles from just £135 (compared to £195). And at the budget end, the newly-refurbished Eaton Hotel, well-placed for trips to Temple Street Night Market, has dropped its rates from £125 to just £73.

In 2018, Hong Kong was the most visited city on earth, welcoming more than 65 million arrivals. This year, the former British colony has been more readily recognised for dystopian images of a society in chaos; millions of its citizens holding colourful umbrellas as they press between skyscrapers, laser beams cutting through clouds of tear gas.

These extraordinary scenes, in one of the world's safest and best-loved cities, ultimately stem from the people of Hong Kong’s desire to retain the fundamental human rights promised to them under the Sino-British joint declaration until the year 2047.

But despite the upheaval, and continuing demonstrations, the British and Foreign Office's advice on travelling to Hong Kong remains the same – it is safe – and though it may seem counterintuitive, there might never have been a more important time for tourists to visit.

The last 12 weeks of protests have taken a toll on the hospitality industry, with reports of hotel occupancy rates dropping by as much as a third and workers being laid off. Room rates have fallen, too, as a result.

Looking at Telegraph Travel's best hotels in Hong Kong, prices for a standard double room at the prestigious Mandarin Oriental are down by nearly one third, from £378 a night to £265. Fantastic five-star Hotel Icon, which has a splendid harbour view swimming pool and an award-winning restaurant, has doubles from just £135 (compared to £195). And at the budget end, the newly-refurbished Eaton Hotel, well-placed for trips to Temple Street Night Market, has dropped its rates from £125 to just £73.

Air fares too have taken a tumble. A typical return might cost between £500 and £600, but there are last minute deals on Skyscanner for as little as £360 return from London, via Dubai, with Emirates, and November flights (when Hong Kong's weather is at its finest) from £423 return with British Airways. Even looking six months ahead, there are bargain return flights from London for just £351. And if the FCO deems travel unsafe at any point travellers would be entitled to a full refund. 

There is still the potential for disruption (smaller peaceful marches and gatherings of people from all sectors of society, including medical staff, teachers, accountants and pensioners, are taking place almost every day, with larger protests being planned at the weekends), but the majority of Hong Kong's major attractions – Victoria Peak, the Star Ferry, Big Buddha, Ocean Park, Disneyland, the Lan Kwai Fong party zone – have so far remained unperturbed by any civil disobedience.

Beyond the key attractions, local restaurants, bars and businesses are also in dire need of support, as are the protesters themselves, who have offered numerous letters of apology to travellers for interrupting their plans. We are fighting for the Hong Kong you want to visit, they say.

The extraordinary nature of the events themselves may also give more adventurous travellers the very reason they need to visit. Eye-catching forms of protests have so far included everything from a laser dance party outside the Space Museum and marches involving millions, to a human chain happening later today, on Friday. Visiting some of the 'Lennon Walls' that have sprung up across the city, where Hongkongers create riotous displays of protest art, graffiti and Post-it notes, offer a fantastic insight into people's grievances, hopes and concerns.

Overall the bravery of Hong Kong people in standing up to the world's largest authoritarian regime is an awesome sight to behold and an important part of a larger global battle for freedom and democracy. To witness it first-hand is tremendous. Otherwise, the protests are generally easy to avoid should you so wish.

While there are a myriad of reasons why China will not roll in the tanks they may or may not have assembled along the Mainland border, chief among them worldwide condemnation and a devastating economic downturn, international visitors have a part to play, too. So long as Hong Kong is full of tourists, China is less likely to assert its full authority.

So if you're the type of traveller who loves good food (Hong Kong's fish ball stands have famously refused to shut up shop in even the most extreme circumstances), a bargain holiday and being on the side of freedom, then now is the time to visit Hong Kong.



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