Rents for businesses in Tai O, on a remote island just off Lantau Island where fishermen have traditionally lived, have been rising, Metro Hong Kong reported Friday, as new transport links bring more tourists to the village.
A local shopowner said the Lantau Link, launched in the 1990s, and the Ngong Ping 360 cable car, which opened in 2006, have brought more and more tourists, who no longer need to spend three hours getting there on ferries from downtown Hong Kong.
While tourists appreciate the convenience, local shopowners never imagined the levels to which their landlords have raised their rents.
Kung Wai-hing, chairman of the Tai O Chinese Chamber of Commerce, was quoted as saying that the monthly rent of a shop he leases has gone up to HK$12,000 (US$1,548) from only HK$2,000 back in 2002, a sixfold increase.
Admitting that the convenient transport links have brought a lot of business opportunities to Tai O, he said deep inside local residents’ hearts, they still crave for a work-life balance and have no desire to make a lot of money by working their behinds off.
Kung said the Lantau Link mainly brings Hongkongers to the village, while Ngong Ping 360 brings foreign tourists.
Holden Chow Ho-ding, vice chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and a member of the Islands district council, said urbanization in Tai O is not that serious, and rises in rent along with booming tourism are normal.
That said, he called on landlords to be more sympathetic about shop operators’ financial constraints when considering a rent hike.
Some shops selling local specialties might be forced out of business if rents become unaffordable, and that would only end up destroying the original characteristics of Tai O, Chow said.
Putting rent issues aside, Kung said the best thing is that human kindness in Tai O has never changed at all.
– Contact us at [email protected]