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AFTA CEO Update November

Considerations for those travelling to Hong Kong

UNREST and concern in Hong Kong appears to be continuing, and for all accounts there does not seem to be an end date in sight. While the Smartraveller Travel Advice remains at level 2 – Exercise a high degree of caution, which has not changed for some time now, the uneasiness is dragging on much longer than many in the travel industry would have hoped for.

It is in fact a very tricky and complex situation; even though there appears to be a pattern forming to the unrest providing some predictability, it is not by any means a science. So the question on the minds of many in the Australian travel industry is, what should I advise my clients to do and should they continue with plans to Hong Kong?We can only draw on the many sources of information available to us, including the myriad of consumer media outlets reporting the blow-by-blow situation as it unfolds, the Smartraveller website, our own individual contacts and links from clients or staff who may have travelled to Hong Kong recently, as well as any local and bureau advice that we may have access to.

Of course, the tricky part of all of this is that it is historical - there is no way of knowing what will happen tomorrow, and the situation could change rapidly. I have had two visits to Hong Kong since the unrest commenced, including an overnight stay, and while there is a higher degree of security at the airport since the raid by protestors, it was by all accounts a typical visit to Hong Kong.

Now for every story like mine, I have had others who recount different experiences, which makes it all the more difficult to give solid advice as to what approach the travel industry should take. At the end of the day however, it really does come down to the individual who is travelling or the company that is sending an employee to make that call. We are all only as good as the advice we can draw on, so while I have been getting many requests for “What should I say?” and “What should I do?”, I think the best advice is to apply your own judgement on this one. If the opportunity arose for me to travel to Hong Kong over the next six to eight weeks, would I go? My answer to this is yes. As a regular international traveller and one that has done several trips this year to mainland China, I would still choose to go.

However, an elevation by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to the travel advisory would likely prompt me to re-consider any travel plans I may have to Hong Kong. Those working in the travel industry should refer to a combination of sources to stay informed of the situation in Hong Kong, and use their discretion in order to form the best advice for travellers.