Travel deficit during Christmas and possibly more

December 27, 2023 11:29
Photo: RTHK

There should be no surprise that one in six Hong Kong people went to the mainland over Christmas holidays.

That was according to the data by the Immigration Department, showing some 1.32 million local residents left Hong Kong in the first three days of Christmas holiday.

The number of departures in the small island with 7.3 million was a record high, up 15.6 per cent from the pre-pandemic level in 2019.

While many locals were having hot springs and sashimi in Japan, nearly 90 per cent of these outbound travel were short trips to either Shenzhen, Zhuhai or Macau.

While people lined up in different outports in Shenzhen (for luckily much shorter waiting hours than before), it was also worth noting that the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge made a record high with 16,000 vehicles passing by on the Christmas day.

However, it was a travel deficit for Hong Kong, where local papers worked out that the number of arrivals was about one-third of the departures during the Christmas period.

Well, one major reason must be Christmas, when most Hong Kong people could enjoy a four-day holiday, it was business as usual for mainlanders.

But one cannot deny that the deficit is growing larger now with the reopening after a three-year pandemic because many people found it more interesting to travel to neighbouring cities for more fun but lower budget.

That also explained why most local retail and dining operators were bleeding over Christmas, the traditional peak season. Christmas buffet is now much easier to book, and the only crowded district is Tsim Sha Tsui for Christmas countdown.

Walking in Wanchai on Christmas night reminded me of the painful pandemic period. One particular restaurant in a popular Mong Kok shopping mall has served no diners during afternoon tea time over Christmas, according to Hong Kong Economic Journal.

No wonder some retailers wished there was no reopening because their businesses were significantly worse this year than the previous years.

The retail situation could remain the same as we head for 2024 because the cross-border spending trend would likely continue. Who in Hong Kong doesn’t want to pay half for much better service – not just in eating, but everything?

Yes, the resumption of Temple Street helps. Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo still draws many people. There are still sellout concerts and shows.

But Hong Kong just lacks the usual vibrancy and resilience we used to know. We certainly hope the economic winter will be over soon.

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EJ Insight writer