Hong Kong should resolve the labour shortage at the airport so carriers can operate more flights and help the tourism industry recover, Thailand’s consul general has said.
Consul General of Thailand in Hong Kong Chaturont Chaiyakam on Saturday said people overseas were interested in coming to the city but obtaining tickets was difficult for some.
“But I hope Hong Kong can solve the shortage of staff at the airport and also the hospitality sector,” he told the Post on the sidelines of the launch of the Thai Select Carnival in Lan Kwai Fong in Central. “I don’t think you have any problem with attracting tourists … Even though now there are 15 flights per day [from Thailand], but it is still difficult to get a ticket.”
The envoy also expressed hope for further business cooperation between Hong Kong and his country, saying he was encouraging Thai companies to set up businesses in the city.
“Thai business people now are more interested in Hong Kong than in the past, because I think Hong Kong has also changed,” he said. “In the past maybe Hong Kong people overlooked the importance of Asean, but now as you know the situation in the world, we have to work closely together … I think with the frequent exchange of visits by business people from both sides, I think it’s a good sign.”
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has 10 member states: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The Post reported in February that labour shortages at the airport had left several airlines unable to resume or increase flights to Hong Kong, due to shortage of ground handling staff.
In 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic struck, 78,000 staff worked at the airport, but 32 per cent had left the industry by the end of last year, according to the Airport Authority.
The carnival, which showcased more than 30 Thai brands, was part of the “Hello Hong Kong” global promotional campaign that aims to highlight new attractions, developments and opportunities for visitors travelling to the city.
The campaign involves spending vouchers, special events and plans to give away 700,000 airline tickets.
The opening ceremony of the carnival, which included traditional Thai dance and Muay Thai boxing, was attended by Thai and local officials, including Undersecretary for Commerce and Economic Development Bernard Chan pak-li.
Business magnate and chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Group Allan Zeman said he was confident the tourism sector would recover and events, such as the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament, Art Basel and the city’s first Pop Culture festival, were essential in boosting the city’s image abroad and bringing tourists back.
“All these events have really, really helped to bring Hong Kong back very quickly, because at the moment, because of the political spat between the West and China, Hong Kong has got a very bad name abroad,” he said.
Despite a slow start following the lifting of travel restrictions and full resumption of quarantine-free travel with mainland China in February, the number of tourists was increasing, he said.
Business had increased by about 20 to 25 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels, he noted.