Businesses count the cost of decision to block extra Shenzhen visitors
‘Bursting of a dream’ for retailers as multi-entry permits for migrants in Shenzhen delayed, but ordinary Hongkongers welcome the move
Restaurateurs anticipating an influx of visitors from across the border have reduced their forecasts of extra earnings by HK$1 billion.
Retailers' hopes of better business were also dashed yesterday when Hong Kong secured agreement from Shenzhen to delay the issuing of multiple-entry visitor permits to 4.1 million non-permanent residents.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said multi-entry permits, due to be issued from September 1, would not be issued in the short term while the government studied the city's capacity to cope with the extra visitors.
Simon Wong Ka-wo, president of the Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, predicted lower growth in the sector. "We had expected the increase in the number of tourists to bring an additional HK$1 billion turnover for the industry," Wong said.
Mainland visitors spent HK$5 billion on food last year, 5 per cent of the catering industry's overall turnover.
Per capita spending by mainland visitors on food dropped from about HK$1,000 in 2003 to HK$200, he said, reflecting changes in consumption patterns. "People would rather shop than dine," he said.
William Wong Wai-sheung, of jewellery retailer Luk Fook Group, described the reversal as the "bursting of a dream".
Hongkongers are concerned about the number of mainland visitors, with some claiming the city is already "overrun". Residents also fear the multi-entry permit may ease the way for illegal workers or parallel traders.
Business aside, residents of the two cities gave mixed responses to the scheme being delayed.
Au Kwok-ho, 30, a coffee trainer in Hong Kong, said he hoped it would be scrapped. "There are more mainlanders than Hongkongers in any busy area, such as Times Square and Langham Place," he said. "I don't even want to go to these places on my days off."
Simon Lam Chi-shing, 50, said the easing of permit rules would benefit the city's economy but Hong Kong was not ready to put the policy into place. A better plan should be worked out first.
"Parallel traders really cause problems in Sheung Shui," Lam said "The government should set an upper limit on the daily entry of mainland travellers if the scheme is to be implemented."
Businessman James Yeung Yangxi, who would be eligible for a multi-entry permit, said he did not care about the scheme even though he would benefit from it.
"I come to Hong Kong mainly for sightseeing," he said. "The scheme mainly makes things easier for frequent business travellers, but not me."
But Hunan migrant worker Huang Chunlan, who works in a luxury department store in Shenzhen, said: "We [non-permanent residents] should have the same right as permanent residents, even if very few of us can afford to shop in Hong Kong every month."