Legislator Michael Tien Puk-sun, who represents the New Territories North West constituency, said the measures suggested under the scheme did not align with the desired results.
“By launching so many activities for people to go onto the streets and just walk around, so what ?” he asked. “If I were operating a store, I would not be open for business, as these people who are coming out do not intend to spend money.”
But a number of stated events are considered regular activities, such as the National Day fireworks and Wine and Dine Festival.
Tien suggested 50 per cent discounts for all forms of public transport after 10pm, including the MTR, pointing out that an offer already suggested by the rail giant was not alluring enough, with conditions that were hard for residents to remember.
Under the campaign, the MTR Corporation will offer passengers a free trip for every five rides after 10.30pm.
The veteran lawmaker also proposed the use of night consumption vouchers, to be obtained from shopping centres and used after a certain time. He noted however that malls should at least shoulder half of such costs.
Finance chief Chan, asked about the possibility of consumption vouchers exclusively for evenings, meanwhile said many participating businesses, including shops and restaurants, were already offering various discounts.
“Every time we hand out vouchers, the expenditure is by no means small, so we need to strike a balance,” he warned.
Fellow legislator Doreen Kong Yuk-foon said the government could only do so much in terms of event variety, but she expressed hope authorities would put more work into such programmes to ensure they drew enough people.
Citing the Wine and Dine Festival, she said more discounts and offers could be provided, allowing visitors to sample food items for free.
Kong, who represents the Election Committee constituency, also said authorities should ensure proper facilitation of the events, such as transport arrangements, adequate resources for organisers and corresponding promotional efforts.
She cautioned however that officials should still take into account the current economic situation and habits of the general public, with most people lacking the time and money to constantly go out in the evening.
Some business leaders lauded the campaign and said it gave Hongkongers a reason to spend the night out.
“The government has done the right thing,” tycoon and chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Group Allan Zeman insisted. “Things have been quiet. It has only been eight months since borders opened up again, and I really, really believe people will come out the more events we have.
“People come out when there are events. When there is nothing, they stay home.”
Catering lawmaker Tommy Cheung Yu-yan also welcomed the move, pointing out dinner spending tended to be at least 30 to 40 per cent higher compared with lunch.
“When the night economy recovers, we can foresee business will improve by leaps and bounds, so I am completely confident this can help us,” he said. “And you do not need to worry about manpower. Where there is profit, there will always be someone willing to do the job.”
Professor Terence Chong Tai-leung, executive director of the Lau Chor Tak Institute of Global Economics and Finance at Chinese University, said there was no direct relationship between having a vibrant night economy and GDP growth.
He pointed to cities such as Phuket and Bangkok, which boasted vibrant night economies that did not guarantee strong economic growth akin to that of Shenzhen.
“It is very hard to use the night economy to stimulate an economy as big as Hong Kong. We mainly make money from people outside the city through finance,” he said.
“By relying on people doing things and selling things to each other at night, it may not guarantee very large contributions to the economy, there could be some small contributions if everyone comes out to spend a little more money.”
Chong pointed out that the main effect of the campaign would likely be related to social harmony, with residents having more opportunities to meet friends outside.