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Chinese tourists

Hong Kong retailers and hotel operators report sluggish business at start of National Day holiday

Seven-day ‘golden week’ stretch starts with faster border crossings for mainland tourists possibly due to fewer numbers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 October, 2016, 4:17pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 October, 2016, 11:31pm

The start of this year’s National Day holiday may mean good news for mainland tourists coming into the city with a shorter waiting time at checkpoints and shops and deeper shopping discounts, but bad news for local retailers and hotel operators as business remains sluggish.

Only a few customers were queuing up outside luxury shops, such as Chanel and Gucci on Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, one of the most popular shopping destinations.

Amer Sun, 28, who travelled from Hubei province, said it only took her 10 minutes on Saturday morning to cross the border from Shenzhen. The same process took her two hours four years ago.

“It is less crowded than expected,” Sun told the Post in front of the Prada shop on Canton Road.

Hong Kong retail sales slide 10.5 per cent in August, dragged down by decline in tourism and economic uncertainty

She said she would return to Shenzhen in the afternoon. “One day is enough for shopping,” she said.

The shorter time needed to cross the border could be attributed to a drop in visitor numbers this year as the seven-day holiday for mainland tourists – known as the “golden week” – started on Saturday.

William Cheng Kai-man, chairman of Magnificent Hotel Investment, which manages more than 2,500 rooms in seven hotels in the city, said they were full from Saturday to the coming Wednesday, but rooms were still available on the following two days and rates during the holiday period were only slightly higher than on normal days instead of being double the rate.

“Frankly the past trend of doubling the room rates on these holidays just scared away mainland tourists, who opted for other destinations,” he said.

Lau Hak-bun, director of Greater China at one of the city’s biggest jewellers, Chow Sang Sang, said the number of visitors on the first day of the holiday was no different from an ordinary weekend.

He said mainlanders used to buy big-ticket gold items to retain the value of their income, but now did not feel the need because they already owned gold.

Lau expected sales to drop 10 per cent during the seven-day holiday compared with a year ago.

Alan Gao, 28, a sales manager from Inner Mongolia, told the Post he had not bought any items. Exactly a year ago, he said, he bought a luxury watch, gold products and medicine in Hong Kong.

“You don’t buy those things on a daily basis,” he said, adding he would only spend one day in the city, and the rest of his holiday in Macau, Zhuhai and Foshan.

A shop assistant surnamed Sham, at Sun Kong Duty Free Medicine Company in Tsim Sha Tsui, said the shop had been quiet since it opened at 9am on Saturday morning.

“Even deeper discounts do not help if people are not coming,” Sham said, adding the shop saw a drop of 70 per cent in visitor numbers compared to the same period a year ago.

Fashion chains such as Esprit offered 50 per cent off on its goods, while British clothing brand Jack Wills dangled discounts of up to 40 per cent.