Despite protests, travel to Hong Kong is seen as safe

Protesters in Hong Kong use umbrellas to shield themselves against tear gas and pepper spray.

Protesters in Hong Kong use umbrellas to shield themselves against tear gas and pepper spray.  (AP)

Jennifer Price has been planning her trip to Hong Kong to attend a friend’s wedding for over a year.  Now one week before her scheduled departure, the nurse from Arlington, Va. is watching the events in the Chinese territory very closely, but she isn’t nervous.

“The protests have honestly had no effect on my excitement to travel Hong Kong. As naïve as it may be, I am not only excited to see the sites, but excited to be there during an important time for Hong Kong,” Price said.

Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters have gathered in Hong Kong’s Central District, demanding more democracy after Beijing last month said it would restrict future Hong Kong leadership choices to candidates loyal to Beijing. Protesters have been blocking streets as they stockpile supplies and erect makeshift barricades to prepare for what some fear may be a push by police to clear the roads before Wednesday’s Chinese National Day. 

You’d expect a city riot-ravaged city would make some travelers a little jittery, but for most, it’s business as usual.  

Steve Loucks, communications officer with the travel agency trade association --Travel Leaders Group –said members he polled in his group have not seen a single cancellation due to the protests.

“19 have had no clients either expressing concerns or canceling and/or postponing travel to Hong Kong. The 20th agent indicated that she had clients who were merely postponing their business trip,” he said.

The generally tame Hong Kong is seen as financial hub rather than a hotbed of protest. It draws in more than 54 million tourists a year for its many attractions, including world-class hotels and restaurants, shopping and even a Disney theme park. 

As of now, the U.S. Dept. of State has not issued a travel alert, although the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong issued a security advisory that recommends exercising caution if in the vicinity of large gatherings, protests and demonstrations.

No flights have been cancelled into Hong Kong so far, and none of the U.S. airlines serving Hong Kong offered any travel waivers allowing passengers to change flights without penalties.

United Airlines did issue this statement:  “Public transportation services to and from the airport in Hong Kong may be delayed due to student demonstrations. We recommend that customers check the availability of transportation services and allow ample travel time to and from the airport.”

Generally, areas outside the protest area remain calm.  Public transportation is still working and safe while schools and businesses are open.  Adding to Hong Kong’s image of relative calm is the symbol of the protest.

Hong Kong's protestors have been using umbrellas to block tear gas and pepper spray--a practice that's becoming so ubiquitous that people have even dubbed the protests the "Umbrella Revolution" and stands in striking contrast to the well-armed police.

But as with most protests, things can happen fast and the situation on the ground could deteriorate.  But that isn’t deterring Price.

“Of course my mom wants to know where I will be every second of every day, but no interruption of plans as of yet.”