No light in Hong Kong’s night economy

August 16, 2023 11:00
Photo: Hong Kong Tourism Board

Who could have expected this 10 years ago?

The high-speed train, the cross-border bus and the cruise terminal all promised to bring over the rich uncles and aunties from the mainland to Hong Kong.

Instead, fast forward to the 2023 summer and six months after reopening, there were actually more locals going over to Shenzhen and Zhuhai.

According to immigration department data, some 165,000 Hong Kong people used road transport to visit China every day last month, compared to an average of 100,000 coming to Hong Kong from China.

A friend who ran a restaurant complained her family needed to wait an hour lining up to visit Shenzhen on a Friday at midnight but could not stop sharing how they enjoyed a 199-yuan stayover at a massage house with a free meal.

Well, that becomes the headache for Financial Secretary Paul Chan who pledged to jack up the economy by bringing back the nightlife in the "Pearl of the Orient" with city-wide night bazaars.

However, that is exactly the worry of local residents and the business sector as they believe the laisse faire policy might work better in Hong Kong. Look at how our government has mishandled a simple logistic problem in the not-so-busy Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in the past decade, one could not agree more.

Why the bustling nightlife has not returned? The stay-home and early-dinner habits we developed during the pandemic were the culprit but the economics of spending wisely ruled the day.

Who would want to pay double or triple for a dinner at a tiny and pricey restaurant with unwelcoming service in Hong Kong?

Wen Wei Pao, a pro-China newspaper found that not many eaters were spotted in Lan Kwai Fong and particularly Tsim Sha Tsui last night as it is now quite trendy for local people to go across borders for entertainment and eating.

That is also why within a five-minute proximity from my home, I spotted one Chinese restaurant that just cancelled the dinner service, another to change hands by the end of the month and a once famous cha chaan teng franchise was not open last Sunday.

It is said there were more restaurants opening than closing down during the pandemic as rentals, which accounted for one-third or even 40 per cent of the expenses, went down.

But I could not feel worse for those who were triple hit by the rising food costs, labour shortage and the new consumer paradigm shift that might become the new normal.

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EJ Insight writer