Strap in, dear readers, the roller coaster is heading downhill fast: tourism arrivals in Hong Kong fell 40% in August, latest data shows.
It is not necessarily a bad thing, however. Some of our staff enjoyed a pleasant afternoon in Sha Tin’s New Town Plaza on Sunday. It wasn’t empty. It was full of locals, and the shops were doing a brisk trade, even though few shoppers were pulling trolley bags.
This is not to make light of the challenge ahead. Retail sales are undoubtedly going to plunge, and job losses are going to be painful, as demand for mostly foreign-made goods sold in Hong Kong’s malls evaporate. But getting these malls back to “normal” will be an important part of the economic restructuring to come.
Without a commensurate reduction in the cost of living for Hong Kong residents, as well as a large-scale social housing program, as well as a stimulus plan for new economic activities, the current falloff in tourists might be considered potentially crippling. Yet it need not be. Tourism has long been a provider of low value-added employment for Hong Kong; it has enriched mostly the tycoon class and the owners of multinational brands. This city can do better. Let’s see what it comes up with over the next month ahead of the CE’s Policy Address.