Business leaders urge Hong Kong authorities to step up efforts to get people to spend locally after Shenzhen targets visitors from city, Macau

Hong Kong business leaders have urged the government to work harder to ensure residents spend their money locally after neighbouring Shenzhen stepped up its efforts to target visitors from the city and Macau.

The Development and Reform Commission of Shenzhen Municipality on Friday issued a new document with a raft of measures to boost consumption, including a section dedicated to luring Hong Kong and Macau visitors.

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Specific suggestions included issuing travel guides for tourists from both cities, providing information leaflets in traditional Chinese and English at different venues, collaborating with various organisations to promote Shenzhen, offering visitors consumption vouchers and improving the cross-border e-payment systems.

Transport links connecting tourist venues with the border were also among measures raised.

The aggressive move came just a day after a “Night Vibes Hong Kong” campaign was unveiled locally with the aim of reversing consumer habits and inducing people to stay out longer after the Covid-19 pandemic, amid a shopping trend of residents heading to mainland Chinese cities such as Shenzhen following the border reopening.

Legislator Peter Shiu Ka-fai, who represents the retail sector, on Saturday said that while Shenzhen’s measures to assist city residents were to be welcomed, it also showed Hong Kong would need to work harder to retain people to spend locally and for tourists to visit.

Lawmaker Peter Shiu says Hong Kong will have to work harder to attract tourists. Photo: Jelly Tse

“In the past, we worked really hard to attract tourists from everywhere. Nowadays, we find other cities are starting to do the same as well,” he said.

“So we will need to work harder, so more people can see Hong Kong’s specialities, especially tourists who may decide to stay one to two more nights, so they will spend more.”

While conceding that it would be natural for more people to visit the mainland under the new measures, Shiu noted that Hong Kong still had some advantages over Shenzhen, such as its products and various cuisines from around the world.

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Ray Chui Man-wai, president of catering sector group the Institute of Dining Art, said the measures would only lead to an increase in visit frequency for Hong Kong residents with a habit of going to the mainland.

“For those who still do not have Alipay or WeChat Pay, I believe they will not head to the mainland for consumption in the short term just because of these facilitation measures,” he said.

Chui noted that Shenzhen was currently more attractive to Hongkongers because of the weaker yuan and more cost-effective services and products bought there.

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“We cannot do anything about the exchange rate … but for the latter issue, we can solve it here in Hong Kong. How can we elevate our services, environment, products and customer service in every industry? We need to do this,” he said.

Simon Wong Ka-wo, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, agreed the city had to work harder to retain residents and attract tourists.

Ray Chui says the weaker yuan is making Shenzhen more attractive just now. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

He said events under the “Night Vibes” campaign could be held more often over a longer period to consistently attract tourists, while other measures should be taken to ensure that all levels of society could benefit.

Deputy Financial Secretary Michael Wong Wai-lun earlier conceded that Hong Kong was competing with neighbouring mainland cities, but stressed it was “not a zero-sum game” where only one side won.

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Hong Kong could still attract shoppers through good services and high-quality products, he said.

Government statistics showed residents made 4.68 million trips across the border in July, a 210,000 rise from the previous month. With the Hong Kong dollar stronger against the yuan, residents’ buying power has risen.


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