The Tourism Board on Tuesday said it can’t even offer an estimate as to how the ongoing coronavirus crisis would affect tourism numbers for the year – saying only that it expects tourist arrivals to drop by at least 10 percent even without taking the epidemic into account.

It said last year was already a poor year for the industry, with months of anti-government unrest seeing visitor numbers plunge 14 percent from a record high of 65 million in 2018, to 56 million.

Discounting the effects of the outbreak, the board said it had expected the numbers to continue to fall, to a yearly total of just over 50 million this year.

But it warned that once the picture was clearer as to how the epidemic would affect the industry in the longer term, things will likely be much worse. The bureau said it expects Hong Kong to start recovering from the outbreak by around May.

In its latest annual business plan released on Tuesday, the board noted that the daily number of arrivals to Hong Kong has plunged from around 65,000 in the beginning of the year to around 3,000, with most border control points closed, and all incoming travellers from the mainland required to be quarantined for 14 days.

The board said this has driven the occupancy rate of local hotels down to around 20 percent.

For now, the board says it’s working to plan promotional campaigns and industry support schemes, so it can roll out measures to draw tourists back in after the health scare eases.

It acknowledged that it will take some time before the tourism market can rebound, and that rival destinations will also be fighting to attract the same group of travellers.