Weekend markets can fill unused spaces and boost tourism
In a report last year, the Audit Commission criticised the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department for leaving empty some of its fresh food wholesale markets.
Particularly of note is the Cheung Sha Wan temporary wholesale poultry market, with 56 per cent of its stalls had been vacant for as long as over five years.
The report came to mind as Hong Kong today grapples with a drop in tourist numbers.
With tourism development in the doldrums and the government racking its brain for solutions, I think it is possible to turn these unused spaces into weekend markets.
We should waste no space. The government can take these extensive market areas and reinvent them. Weekend markets would feature gourmet and organic food, and various other goods, such as handicrafts.
They would be popular with tourists and become another food and dining option.
Tourism need not always be about launching mega- infrastructure projects. A weekend market can be as tourist-friendly as a theme park and it does not have to be very large to appeal to tourists. And it can act a showcase displaying different aspects of Hong Kong culture.
These weekend markets have proved to be a successful tourist magnet in other cities. Each one I have visited has had its own unique qualities, for example, Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, Borough Market in London, and Salamanca Market in Hobart, Tasmania.
A market can be much more than the city’s fresh-food shopping mecca – it can also be a historic landmark. Queen Victoria Market is a case in point.
Compared with the idea of food trucks, which the government put forward in the budget last year, weekend markets appear to be a more feasible and attractive idea, encompassing a wider range of cultural elements and catering to locals and tourists alike.
In a highly-stressed city like ours, weekend markets could also provide a spot for relaxation and to chill out, especially if they incorporated al fresco dining, which is a way of revitalising the local food scene.
I recently went a market in Sai Kung. With around 30 stalls selling different sorts of wares such as organic products, crafts and clothes, I felt like I was abroad.
These weekend markets can be an important part of the future development of the tourist sector in Hong Kong.
Borromeo Li Ka-kit, Happy Valley