Potential diners were thin on the ground on the third day of Easter holidays at this Mong Kok restaurant. Photo: Sam Tsang
by SCMP Editorial
by SCMP Editorial

Hong Kong businesses must adapt as residents ‘go north’

  • Hong Kong shops and restaurants, already suffering, lost out as hundreds of thousands of citizens ventured to mainland China to take advantage of the long Easter weekend

More Hongkongers opted for shopping and entertainment on the mainland after the city emerged from the prolonged pandemic.

A year has passed and numbers continue to grow. While the “go north” trend is beneficial to cross-border integration, it does not bode well for many local businesses during a weaker-than-expected economic recovery.

The figures speak for themselves. More than half a million residents went elsewhere on the first day of the Easter holiday.

The number continued to rise, reaching a combined 1.5 million on Sunday. Some travellers are expected to stay longer overseas with the Ching Ming Festival tomorrow prompting many to take a bigger break.

Hongkongers make 1.5 million outbound trips in first 3 days of Easter break

The outbound trips were nearly five times the 330,248 inbound made over the long weekend. Perhaps this is unsurprising with Easter not designated a public holiday on the mainland.

The exodus, of course, provides a welcome boost to the travel industry. But it is hardly good news for shops and restaurants, which are still struggling to recover from the pandemic.

It is estimated that the food and beverage industry suffered up to a 30 per cent decline in business during the holiday.

Coincidentally, some outlets closed for good as the financial year ended, further reinforcing the impression that the trend to go north has taken a heavy toll on local businesses.

Several business operators lamented the loss and blamed Hongkongers for not supporting the local economy, but the trend also warrants deeper reflection.

‘Miserable’: Hong Kong restaurants lament drop in business over Easter holiday

Some northbound travellers say the services and food across the border are of better quality and value for money. However, others say there is not much difference when taking into account the cost and travel time involved.

Like it or not, the changing travel and spending patterns are something we have to live with. The government should not rule out more proactive measures to stabilise the economy. Better efforts are also needed to attract visitors from both near and far.

Ultimately, it is incumbent upon affected businesses to innovate and adapt to change. They will have to work even harder than during the pandemic to survive the latest challenge. Sitting back and just moaning about the situation is not an option.