The profound impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on global tourism activity has rendered forecasts of tourism demand obsolete. Accordingly, scholars have begun to seek the best methods to predict the recovery of tourism from the devastating effects of COVID-19. In this study, econometric and judgmental methods were combined to forecast the possible paths to tourism recovery in Hong Kong. The autoregressive distributed lag-error correction model was used to generate baseline forecasts, and Delphi adjustments based on different recovery scenarios were performed to reflect different levels of severity in terms of the pandemic's influence. These forecasts were also used to evaluate the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism industry in Hong Kong.
In many places, tourism has become a strategic pillar industry, given its increasingly significant contributions to the local gross domestic product (GDP). Despite its importance, tourism is also one of the most vulnerable industries. The tourism industry has experienced significant negative effects during so-called “black swan” crisis events, such as the financial crises in 1997 and 2008, the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003, and various earthquakes and episodes of social unrest. Business operations are contingent on forecasts. However, forecasts generated using traditional methods might be out-of-date and ineffective in a crisis. Therefore, a useful method that can produce accurate forecasts for both academia and business purposes is urgently needed.
Since late 2019, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has caused unprecedented global health and social emergencies and profound negative impacts on the global economy. By September 30, 2020, 33,561,077 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,005,004 deaths had been reported worldwide (World Health Organization; WHO, 2020). The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reported that by April 20, 2020, all major tourist destinations had implemented travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (UNWTO, 2020). Tourism is among the industries most negatively affected by this pandemic. Lockdowns in many countries, widespread travel restrictions, and airport and national border closures reduced the number of international tourist arrivals by 67 million during the first quarter of 2020 (2020Q1). This decrease implies a loss of approximately US$80 billion in tourism revenue, compared with the same period in 2019 (UNWTO, 2020).
Hong Kong, which is known as the Pearl of the Orient, blends Eastern and Western cultures and is famous for its gourmet and shopping opportunities. Since the late 1980s, Hong Kong has vigorously developed its service sector. In 1989, the total tourist arrivals in Hong Kong were only 5,361,170 (Census and Statistics Department, 1990). By 2018, this number had increased to 65.15 million, with annual tourist revenues of HK$328.2 billion (Tourism Commission, 2019). In the first half of 2019, Hong Kong welcomed 34,871,856 inbound tourists, and this number represented a 13.9% increase relative to 2018 (Gov. HK, 2020).