In Trends

Two-thirds of Hong Kong’s daily GDP gets blown away

A typhoon triggering a No 8 signal on Hong Kong’s warning scale can carry huge total losses to the city – about US$627 million a day, according to a report by Swiss Re Institute. That is about 67 percent of the city’s daily GDP, the research arm of the insurer said. And many of the losses are not insured.

When a typhoon rumbles over Hong Kong, wind and rain batter shops, shatter windows and disrupt businesses, from fish sellers in the wet markets to some of the world’s largest conglomerates.

A city known for its long breakneck pace suddenly sees its streets near empty, as workers stay put and shops are boarded up.

The hardest-hit sectors tend to be construction, retail, financial and insurance businesses, real estate services, and transport.

One leading insurer in the city, Haywood Cheung, chairman of Target Insurance, is predicting claims of just shy of HK$1 billion (US$127 million). That is ahead of the destruction wrought in August last year by Typhoon Hato (US$110 million in payments).

Hong Kong Tree Care made about US$300,000 last year by clearing away trees snapped and tossed about by Typhoon Hato and other storms.

“People have already contacted us before this typhoon has struck to conduct screening of their trees,” said Bill Wan, its director.

“And some schools have asked us to provide tree-trimming services in case the typhoon causes loose branches to damage school property.”

Typhoon Hato created two-months worth of business for Hong Kong Tree Care, as it cut down trees, cleared away battered branches and made assessment on ones that were damaged.

Since 1980, Hong Kong has experienced 53 typhoons that triggered No 8 signals. Swiss Re Corporate Solutions offers a special “Insur8” policy for non-damage related losses, such as lost earnings and operating costs from No 8 and worse storms.

Some businesses had planned for the potential disruption to their operations since it became clear that Hong Kong was potentially in the storm’s path.

Michael Tsang, founder of Hong Kong Free Tours, a company that specialises in walking tours around the city, said he may need to call off weekend hikes. That would mean a loss of up to US$750 per day in tips and fees.

As per what actually happened with Signal No 10, we are waiting for the report.

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