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Editorial : The Golden Week

【明報專訊】The eight-day Mid-Autumn and National Day Golden Week holidays began yesterday (October 1), the first golden week holidays in the real sense in mainland China since the outbreak of COVID-19. An upsurge in travel everywhere has been reported. To a certain extent, however, this golden week is just a test. It is not only a stress test of the safety of people travelling together intensively under the normalisation of pandemic prevention, but also a test of how successfully the travel industry can resume business and production and explore new ways of operation after the pandemic.

The mainland tourism industry also sees this golden week as a golden opportunity to recover from the pandemic. According to figures from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, both the number of people taking part in domestic travel and the number of tourists received by travel agencies in the first quarter of this year dropped by more than 80% year-on-year.

But by July and August, all of the country's tourist resorts had returned to business, with the number of tourists received and revenues returning to about 90% of last year's total. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has raised the upper limit of visitors to the country's scenic spots from 50% of total capacity to 75% to prepare for this golden week. However, it is still too early to expect that there will be "revenge spending" this golden week to compensate for the losses inflicted by the pandemic.

First, the impact of the pandemic on the economy has yet to diminish. Although the total retail sales of consumer goods grew by 0.5% year-on-year in August, the first time it has turned positive this year, the cumulative year-on-year decline from January to August was still 8.6%, and the momentum of recovery is slowing down. In addition, the disposable income per capita of all residents decreased by 1.3% in the first half of the year, indicating that consumption has been the weakest link in the economic recovery due to the impact of the pandemic. Secondly, the normalisation of pandemic prevention and control has led to the emergence of a new tourism model, which has added to the difficulties faced by operators.

As the borders remain shut between Hong Kong and the mainland, the 800,000 practitioners in Hong Kong's tourist industry who have been hard hit have yet to benefit from the golden week. As Hong Kong Tourism Board Chairman Pang Yiu-kai predicts, it will take time for the number of visitors to recover gradually and the majority of first visitors will be short-haul travellers. They will make medium- and long-haul travels only after their confidence is restored.

A month ago, the HKSAR government intended to discuss the implementation of "travel bubbles" with 11 countries. Now it seems that it will take time for foreigners to have confidence in the prevention and control of the pandemic in Hong Kong, while at the same time allowing people to travel safely outside of Hong Kong without contracting the disease or importing it into the territory. It also takes time for Hong Kong people to be confident about travelling abroad and travellers to visit our city.

In addition, the tourism industry must also address squarely the differences between the new mode of tourism after the pandemic and the old one before it. It will need to think about changes in the way it does business. It is not enough just to have standard procedures for travel hygiene, and some procedures are even beyond the capacity of the industry. For example, in order to cope with the large number of tourists, the government has to provide support in terms of accredited nucleic acid testing capacity and quarantine capacity at border control points.

At the same time, it is a new challenge for Hong Kong as a whole to establish a comprehensive case notification mechanism with the relevant regions and to trace the sources of imported and exported cases in a timely manner with the protection of the privacy of citizens being prioritised. Compared to vigorous publicity campaigns to compete for tourists, a more pressing task is to build such infrastructure.

明報社評2020.10.02:黃金周港難分杯羹 抗疫基建正本清源

內地中秋國慶8日黃金周假期昨日開始,這是新冠疫情發生後的內地第一個真正意義上的旅遊黃金周。據報道,各地都出現了旅遊出行的高潮,但從某種意義來說,這個黃金周還僅是一次測試,既是防疫常態化下,民眾集中出遊安全的一種壓力測試,也是對旅遊業界復產復業、探索疫後經營新方式的一次檢測。

內地旅遊業界也將今個黃金周視作疫後復蘇的黃金機會,根據文化和旅遊部數字,今年首季,無論是全國旅行社國內旅遊組織人次,還是接待遊客數量,按年比都大跌八成以上。

但到7至8月,全國旅遊度假區全部恢復開放,接待人次和收入恢復到去年九成左右。為迎接今個黃金周,文旅部已將景區遊客量上限由總容量的50%上調至75%。不過,指望這個黃金周會出現「報復式消費」,補償疫情的損失,恐怕為時尚早。

首先,疫情對經濟的影響遠未消除,雖然8月社會消費品零售總額按年比增長0.5%,是今年內首次轉正,但1至8月累計按年仍跌8.6%,且回升勢頭正在趨緩。此外,上半年全國居民人均可支配收入減少1.3%,顯示受疫情衝擊,消費成為經濟恢復的最薄弱環節。其次,疫情防控常態化,亦令旅遊出現了新模式,給經營增加了新的難度。

由於本港與內地仍未通關,今個黃金周對飽受打擊的香港80萬旅遊業者來說,仍未能受惠。正如旅發局主席彭耀佳預期的,旅客人數需時逐步恢復,並會先以短途客為主,旅客建立信心後才會恢復中長途旅行。

特區政府月前還有意與11個國家商討落實「旅遊氣泡」,現在看來,既要讓外地人對香港的疫情防控有信心,又要讓港人安全外遊,不會染疫,更不會將疫情輸入;既要讓港人放心出去,亦要讓別人放心進來,仍需要時日。

此外,旅遊業界也必須正視疫後旅遊新模式與疫前旅遊模式的差異,思考經營方式的轉變,僅僅制訂旅遊衛生標準程序還不夠,有些甚至超出業界的能力,例如,為配合大量遊客的進出,獲認可的核酸檢測能力及口岸檢疫能力,都需要政府提供配套。

同時,要與相關地區建立完善的個案通報機制,如何在保障市民個人私隱的前提下,及時追蹤輸入或輸出個案的源頭,對於整個香港,都是新的挑戰。相較於大力宣傳去搶客,這些基本建設才是當務之急。

■Glossary

生字

upsurge : a sudden large increase in sth

squarely : directly or exactly; without confusion

accredit : to officially approve sth/sb as being of an accepted quality or standard

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