Food stalls and local snacks should be allowed at tourist attraction Temple Street in Hong Kong, a retail representative on Monday said as he called on eased policies to revitalise the area under a bid to boost the city’s night economy.
Raymond Chan Kam-wing, chairman of the Yaumatei Temple Street Association of Hawkers and Shop Operators, said he was in talks with authorities on logistics such as fire safety and hygiene for a gourmet stretch in the area, set to open in November.
“Gourmet is not enough. Currently, tourists can only see clothes being sold at stalls there if they want to buy souvenirs for friends back home,” Chan told a radio programme.
“Pre-packed food is sold in wet markets but tourists will not visit those. They mostly prefer attractions and Temple Street is an internationally-known stretch. But the stalls on Temple Street are prohibited from selling food. They can only sell dried products.”
Chan said he had received “positive response” from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department on relaxing the rules, and he expected a green light soon.
The government on Thursday announced a raft of activities under a months-long citywide campaign to attract residents to stay out longer and boost the night economy.
These include waterfront bazaars, evening programmes at theme parks and museums, free entry to the Happy Valley Racecourse, film screenings and expanded pedestrian areas.
Temple Street had long been a tourism staple, welcoming swarms of visitors interested in clothes, souvenirs, jade, antiques, mobile phones and watches. It was also famous for traditional fortune-tellers who peddle their services there, as well as Cantonese opera performances and dai pai dong food, a vanishing form of street cafes.
But since the Covid-19 pandemic, the street has become muted and such businesses have lagged considerably, a trend observed across Hong Kong.
Chan said he believed the drop in tourists numbers at Temple Street was due to the global economic slump.
“The problems of Temple Street’s stalls is that they have become outdated, no matter the owners and the products, amid the popularity of online shopping,” he noted. “That is why we have to revitalise the stalls.”
He said he had taken reference from night food markets in other countries, but Temple Street’s version would involve cuisines across cultures.
“There are many different ethnicities living on Temple Street, such as Southeast Asians and shops set up by these residents. My idea is that we can have food from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Turkey, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam,” he said.
“Of course, there will be traditional Hong Kong street fare such as egg waffles and beef entrails. This kind of internationalised gourmet street cannot be seen in Shenzhen and Taipei, but only on Temple Street. This will be refreshing for tourists and residents.”
Chan said the food stalls, along with fortune-tellers and singing performances, could provide a rich cuisine and cultural experience for visitors.
He added he had also proposed extending the opening hours of the nearby Jade Market to 9pm from 6pm, a move welcomed by stall owners.
Retail sector lawmaker Peter Shiu Ka-fai of the Liberal Party also said instead of extended opening hours at all shopping centres, the nightlife drive should be focused on a few malls.
“Not everyone will head out at night. If we can focus on certain shopping malls, I believe it will be more effective,” he told the same radio show.
“If all shopping malls have to extend their hours, there may not be enough manpower and some shops may be closed. If there are certain malls filled with visitors at night with ongoing performances, it can create a nicer atmosphere.”
He said a more focused effort could also mean better business which could be an incentive for malls to join the campaign.
Roundtable lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, also on the same programme, said incentives were key to promoting consumption.
“The most important thing is to create additional consumption rather than extending the situation of poor businesses from 8pm to 12am,” he said.
He suggested malls could distribute vouchers of at least HK$50 in value each after 8.30pm nightly, to drive evening consumption.
Tien said the government and malls could equally share the cost of such vouchers, which could be limited to same-day spending at a particular venue.