Tourism in Hong Kong: Golden Week is no longer “golden”

Fanny Hui just has one guest during one hour in this long afternoon on 1st May in this Golden Week while she was pretty busy on the same day of last year. She is assistant manager of Yue Man Jewellery located at Nathan road, Mongkok. Knowing the guest did not have strong willing to buy the ring she recommended, she directly gave 50% discount to her. Even the guest did not ask for so much.

“Ninety percent guests were less than last 1st May,” Ms. Hui said. Unlike those famous jewelry brands which were known by mainland visitors, the majority of Yue Man Jewellery’s customers are local residents. This shop has given several preferential terms to attract visitors, including one named “Gift for mother’s day” which gave guests 30 percent off. Not far away from it, another local jewelry shop posts a brand on the window which reads: “Support ‘one country two system’; Support the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong”. But still few people went into the shop.

The famous jewelry shops on this road, like Chow Tai Fook, Chow Sang Sang and Luk Fook Jewelry were still full of people. The receptionist of Chow Tai Fook, Mr. Li said, “the amount of guests is more than expectation.” But he said this amount was still less than the golden week in last October which were at the beginning of occupied central and last Christmas.

A famous jewelry shop, Chow Tai Fook, still is full of guests. But total amount of guests is less than the Golden Week in last October. Photo by ZHANG Shuang

The local jewelry shops face a harsher situation. According to Hong Kong’s independent economist, Guan Chuozhao, that’s because the instability of politics would increase the uncertainty of local economy while less customers want to go shopping. At last, the internal consumption will slip.

Not only internal consumption declined, the number of visitor arrivals also witnessed a fluctuation, which was regarded as a major factor may bring about a more unfavorable impact on the overall economy of Hong Kong. According to the visitor arrivals statistics published by Hong Kong Tourism Board Partnet, the overall growth of visitor arrivals is 12.6 percent in October 2014. The visitors from Mainland China increased 18.3 percent in this month compared to October 2013. What’s more, the number of visitor arrivals during October 2014 to February 2015 witnesses a year-on-year increase. Until March 2015, the number of visitors declined 8.7 percent, which is the first time the number decline from July 2009.

Hong Kong Yijia hotel’s rooms have been reserved over 90 percent on 1st May. So does the last Golden Week in October 2014. It is a family hotel, located at Zhenyi Building, Nathan road. “Visitors reserved their rooms before the golden week and Occupied Central last year, so we were not influenced too much in that golden week.” But because located at Mongkok, this hotel experienced a harsh time during occupied central. The situation in this golden week also is not optimistic. Although on 1st, May 2015, all the single rooms and double rooms in this hotel have been reserved, on 2nd and 3rd May, 50 percent rooms have no reservations.

Mongkok still loaded with people in 1st, May, but there are fewer visitors carried suitcase which is a sign of Mainland guests. Some Korean makeup shop, like Innisfree still had long queue. Ms. Lin Yilian who lived in Shenzhen, said that she only bought products of Innisfree in Mongkok. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t come here,” she said. Ms. Lin said she came to Hong Kong when she was free during Occupied Central. “Occupied central did not make me feel I am dangerous. But anti-parallel trading is scared. I never know if I would be the next one they hit on the street,” she said.

The reasons of the visitors arrivals declined are complicated. According to the Secretary of Commerce and Economic Development of Hong Kong, Mr. Gregory So’s public remarks provided by the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, various factors have affected the desire of visitors to travel to Hong Kong in recent months, such as the persisting uncertain outlook for the global economy, continued strengthening of the Hong Kong dollar as well as depreciation of currencies and relaxation of visa policies of other popular tourist destinations. He emphasized the anti-parallel trading protests in recent months have also damaged Hong Kong’s hospitable image and affected the desire of visitors (especially Mainland visitors) to travel to Hong Kong.

HKers: “Economy growth does not mean all”

Government officials and pro-Beijing media said Occupied Central would cause long-term hurt for the economy of Hong Kong, but some Hong Kong residents said it is price they’d like to pay for democracy, let alone it does not very clear if Occupied Central really harmed Hong Kong’s economy.

Thomas Hong, a retired businessman in Hong Kong, who took part in Occupied Central for more than 60 days, said even if Hong Kong’s economy would be harmed by occupied central, it is worthy. He said struggle for democracy is the history mission for Hong Kong people in this time. “Although Hong Kong people have the name of pragmatism in the world, we’d like to sacrifice some economy growth to leave a democracy city to our children,” Hong said.

Dispute arose among Hong Kong people when it comes to if Occupied Central affected Hong Kong’s economy. Hong said more evidence was needed to illustrate the harm happened. Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang warned Hong Kong’s economic growth for 2014 could be lower than the government’s earlier forecast of 2.2 percent in last December. But according to the statistics published by Hong Kong trade development council, Hong Kong’s economy expanded by 2.3 percent in real terms in 2014, which is higher than the Financial Secretary’s expectation. Although the economy situation would be worse in 2015 for the report said the economy is forecast to grow by 1–3percent in 2015 as a whole, the report also mentioned the reason of economy recession is “the unsteady and rather feeble global economic environment”.

Thomas Hong’s friend Bob Kraft, who is a retired preacher and freelancer of Inmediahk, said that Hong Kong would won a reputation of struggling for democracy, which would make Hong Kong more attractive for people who have the same values, which is positive factor for Hong Kong’s economy in long-term.

Tom Holland, the writer of the South China Morning Post’s Monitor column had more reasons to support this viewpoint. He said that Hong Kong as a financial center relies on its reliability of legal system, the credibility of its regulations and the knowledge of its financiers. All these advantages won’t be ruined by occupied central.

According to the statistics offered by Hong Kong trade development council, the visitor arrivals to Hong Kong increased 11.6 percent year-on-year even in January-February 2015 and Hong Kong’s merchandise exports also saw a year-on-year increase of 2.3 percent in January-March 2015 when occupied central ended for not long period of time. But the number of visitor arrivals declined 8.7 percent in March 2015 when anti-parallel trading happened in this month, which is the first time this number decline since July 2009.

This is Kowloon Tong station on East rail line, which was among the busiest metro lines in Hong Kong. It has Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chou stations which lies on the boards of Hong Kong and Shenzhen. But 1st May, it was pretty empty. Photo by ZHANG Shuang

Thomas Hong said that if the Occupy movement really were to deter tourists, it is likely many Hongkongers would be grateful. But obviously, the decline of the number of visitor arrivals did not happened during occupied central, but in several months later when anti-parallel trading happened.

Hong Kong government launches policies to help economy recover

Hong Kong government launched several plans to help Hong Kong’s tourism recovery from the blow of occupied central. But the effectiveness of these policies was suspected by people.

In Hong Kong government’s 2015–2016 budget, the license fees of 1,800 travel agents, 2,000 hotels and guesthouse, 2,600 restaurant and hawkers were waived for half of year. Some preferential activities also launched to attract visitors and spur consumption, like Happy @hongkong super JETSO promoted by Hong Kong Tourism Board.

Chen Zhuoming, the owner of a small restaurant in Sham Shui Po, said the license fee waived by government could help him save around HKD 1,000. In Hong Kong, each meal is around HKD 30. HKD 1,000 means Chen sold 30 more meals. “It just can help a little, but it’s better than nothing,” Chen said.

In this budget, Financial secretary also injected funding into Hong Kong Tourism Board and Hong Kong Information Service Department to improve the business sentiment and rebuild the city image. But the effectiveness is not clear now. According to the visitor arrivals statistics published by Hong Kong Tourism Board Partnet, the tourists from other countries, especially from Southeast Aisa still saw a decline in March 2015.

In order to attract more guests, over 10,000 shops and tourism attractions take part in HAPPY @hongkong super JETSO activity, like Manning, Sasa, Disneyland and Ocean Park. But the promotion of this activity did not work very well. Most visitors said they did not know there is a preferential when they bought something in shops.

There is only one post of HAPPY @hongkong super JETSO in the shop of Baleno and no salesperson introduced it to customers. Photo by ZHANG Shuang

Hu Yue, from Shanxi province of China, came to Langham place in Mongkok on 2nd, May. She spent around HKD 20,000 in this mall, but no salesperson told her this preferential activity, until she saw a post about the preferential in Levis and asked the salesperson. Ms. Hu also tried to search the information of HAPPY @hongkong super JETSO online, but only the names of shops were provided, no specific information about preferential terms were on the website. “If you did not tell guests these discounts, it means nothing has been done,” she said.

“These policies are helpful, but not helpful enough. They can not solve the long-term blow of Hong Kong’ tourism, ” said Huang Jiahe, the manager of Hong Kong Federation of Restaurant and Related Trades.

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