The massive protests that have rattled Hong Kong in recent weeks will put hundreds of thousands of mainland Chinese tourists off visiting the city this year, according to HSBC.
The bank believes that the number of visitors from the mainland will continue to grow in 2019, but at a slightly slower rate than it had forecast before people took to the streets in their millions to demonstrate against the now-suspended extradition bill.
It has revised down its estimated growth of mainland tourist arrivals for the year to 9 per cent from 9.7 per cent, according to a research report it released on Tuesday. Visitor numbers increased by 14 per cent in 2018.
The initial forecast would have equated to 56 million Chinese tourists. That means, according to the revised forecast, Hong Kong will welcome 350,000 fewer visitors from the mainland this year.
HSBC also now foresees a sharp fall in the number of mainlanders visiting the US this year, because of the political and economic tensions between the two countries. It had previously seen a marginal increase.
The lender revised down its estimate to a 5 per cent drop from 0.2 per cent growth. Beijing and Washington have been locked in a bitter trade dispute for over a year, the impact of which has spilled over into other sectors including tourism.
The bank made its original forecasts in April, straight after Hong Kong recorded 17.5 per cent annual growth in mainland visitors during the first quarter.
"We have trimmed our estimates for Hong Kong to 9.0 per cent for the year given the recent protests, which could affect tourism flows," said Erwan Rambourg, HSBC's global co-head of consumer and retail research, in the report.
"Our new estimates for 2019 for Chinese travel to the US are down about 5 per cent as we expect the current political climate to continue to weigh on inbound Chinese tourism."
Hong Kong is experiencing an unprecedented political crisis in the shape of a succession of huge rallies that started over a month ago and have at times sparked violence between demonstrators and police.
The protests did not stop when the government declared the proposed law that would allow fugitives to be transferred to mainland China for trial was "dead". Some of the recent protests have targeted mainland tourists' hotspots in the city such as Sheung Shui, Tuen Mun and Sha Tin.
Tourist numbers took a battering in the wake of the 79-day Occupy Central movement in 2014, which saw rallies calling for universal suffrage. Mainland tourists fell from 47.25 million in 2014 to 45.84 million the following year, and then again to 42.78 million in 2016.
The numbers bounced back to 44.45 million in 2017, before surging to 51 million last year as the launch of a new high-speed train and bridge made cross-border transport easier.
HSBC also cut its estimates for Thailand, Japan, Vietnam and Malaysia. It expects China's global outbound tourism growth to slow to 6 per cent in 2019, a downward revision from an 7 per cent.
Last year 162 million Chinese tourists jetted off on holidays overseas.
Mainland tourists are important spenders worldwide. Although China accounted for only 7 per cent of global outbound travel in 2018, Chinese travellers represented 10 per cent of global outbound expenditure in the same year, according to Euromonitor.
Spending by Chinese travellers was 30 per cent higher than the US and 25 per cent higher than the rest of the world last year, according to Euromonitor.
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