• Thu
  • Apr 17, 2014
  • Updated: 8:43pm
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PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 10:07am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 10:07am

Going underground could give shops the space they need to deal with tourism boom

BIO

Sandy Li joined SCMP as a property reporter in 1996, and was promoted to senior reporter in 2005 and deputy property editor in 2009. During her career she has won several journalism prizes, including the Citi Journalistic Excellence Award in 2011. She was first runner-up for the same award in 2010.
 

Restaurants, shops, theme parks and fast-food chains enjoyed brisk sales as hordes of tourists descended on Hong Kong during the Lunar New Year holiday, but how long can they cope with the escalating influx?

The Immigration Department recorded 850,000 visitor arrivals during the first three days of the Year of the Horse, starting on January 31, a 120 per cent jump from 380,000 in the first three days of the Lunar New Year last year and an increase of 197 per cent from 286,000 in 2012.

However, Hong Kong’s tourism facilities are nearly saturated, and the government is looking for ways to increase the supply of commercial space.

One of them was mentioned by Chief Executive Leung Chung-yin last month in his second policy speech.

He said “the government has commenced a study to identify districts with potential for developing urban underground space, with a view to increasing usable space and enhancing connectivity in the urban areas. We are preparing a pilot study covering four selected strategic districts, namely Tsim Sha Tsui West, Causeway Bay, Happy Valley and Admiralty/Wan Chai”.

On Wednesday last week, a paper prepared by the Planning Department and submitted to Yau Tsim Mong district councillors named Hong Kong Park, Victoria Park, the Happy Valley Racecourse, Kowloon Park, Southorn Playground and Hong Kong Stadium as potential areas for urban underground development.

Owing to their easy accessibility, the underground shopping complexes will likely attract shoppers from Hong Kong and abroad.

To a certain extent, this will help to ease the shortage of commercial space – not just for shopping but also dining and entertainment – as the government predicts the city can expect 70 million tourists by 2017, up from 54.3 million last year, and 100 million within a decade.

Property experts said there is a long queue of overseas retailers wanting to open their first flagship stores in Hong Kong to showcase their products to wealthy mainlanders.

But many have been forced to skip over Hong Kong because of the lack of supply of large retail shops for lease. Instead of halting their expansion plans, some retailers have decided to set up their Chinese flagship stores on the mainland instead.

An increase in the supply of retail space might not only attract some of these overseas retailers to the city.

Small retailers edged out by big players that can afford soaring rents could also relocate to underground shopping complexes, where rents are likely to be lower than those for street-level shops.

Underground shopping malls in Japan and on the mainland could serve as examples of how shoppers can be diverted from the street level.

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Baggy
Another bad idea. Firstly the government is so focused on earning from mainland tourists, that they make HK a shopkeepers land. And in the process they make local people's life unaffordable, because we are only looking at high end brands even if u wana buy a pair of glasses. Also, a healthy generation of economic growth is stopped, because enterprenaurship has become 100 times more difficult for a local. And there is lack of creative businesses for the youth to explore because everything is unaffordable. And risk of future is that, when China's tax issues change for whatever reason. HK's market will crash, retail will stop. European brands will easily move out, fire the staff and go to the next best place...while creating HK unemployment, and mainly stuck youth who have no great skills except being a shop assistant....
johnyuan
The most effective way to lower the number of mainland visitors who are mainly shoppers is to request officials in mainland to lower the quota. Remember there is a quota control. It is just not in the hand of Hong Kong government – some strange arrangement that needs to be clarified. When revision quota request failed, Hong Kong should set out an area adjacent to the border for holding mainland shoppers there to create such quota for visiting the rest of Hong Kong. I think has every right to do so.
.
It is only James Tien and the likes may vehemently oppose it. Dig underground in the busiest part of Hong Kong is vividly a case that money has made capable people sometimes very stupid and selfish.

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