For the first time in its 10-year history, the New Year’s Eve fireworks display over Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor has been canceled due to concerns about violent protests which have been going on since June this year.
The important announcement was made by the Hong Kong Tourism Board last December 17, as they also announced a 56 percent drop in tourism figures for November.
No New Year’s Eve Countdown this 2020 Amid Threats Over Protests in Hong Kong
According to the police, senior officers had serious concerns over whether an event attracting hundreds of thousands of revelers could be held safely amid the often-violent social unrest that has gripped the city since June, as shared in a report by the South China Morning Post.
Hong Kong Tourism Board chairman Pang Yiu-kai shared, “Public safety is our top priority as the fireworks can attract huge crowds gathering around the harbor.”
The Tourism Board added that the show is set to be replaced by pyrotechnics released from city rooftops on a much smaller scale.
For his part, Dane Cheng Ting-yat, Hong Kong Tourism Board executive director, explained that an enhanced version of the Symphony of Lights – the daily visual show beamed from both sides of Victoria Harbour – will be held instead on New Year’s Eve.
He also noted that the countdown can be watched on smartphones via live streaming.
It can be recalled that the six-month-long anti-government protests which were sparked by the controversial extradition bill have posed serious concerns to Hong Kong’s tourism industry.
Concerning this, the South China Morning Post reported a drop in the number of tourists by 56 percent on-year to 2.65 million in November.
The riots also led to the cancellation of major city events such as the Clockenflap music festival, the Hong Kong Tennis Open, and the Wine & Dine Festival among others.
To mitigate the situation, Cheng shared that the Tourism Board would test overseas demand for visiting the city through an online platform called “Hong Kong Is On”, which would showcase various offers and discounts from airlines, restaurants, hotels, and retailers.
“We can’t do nothing and wait for a completely restored situation before launching any marketing campaign,” Cheng explained. “Hong Kong is not dangerous, it’s only inconvenient.”
For his part, Lawmaker Yiu Si-wing from the tourism sector expressed shock over the latest numbers.
According to Yiu, “There is little room for a rebound in the near term, and the tourism downturn has seriously affected the city’s economy. Visitors may still feel it is unsafe and inconvenient to come to Hong Kong and they have options in other destinations.”
Although there won’t be any big fireworks countdown event in Hong Kong this year, it’s a much better compromise to ensure the safety of the public and a step to promote the city as a tourist destination once again.