Hong Kong businesses shut shop as city struggles to revive post pandemic

HONG KONG, April 30 (Reuters) - When Jacky Yu, 48, opened his Japanese gift shop in Hong Kong more than a decade ago, the tourist and shopping district of Mong Kok was a bustling hub packed with stalls, street food and tourists.
十多年前,48 岁的余先生在香港开了一家日本礼品店。当时,旅游和购物区旺角是一个热闹的中心,摊位、街头小吃和游客络绎不绝。
Fast-forward 12 years and parts of the area are struggling to stay afloat, a combination of customers emigrating, locals heading across the border to shop in China or travelling to Japan to benefit from a weak yen - and a dearth of tourists.
时光荏苒,12 年过去了,该地区的一些地方正面临着生存困境。原因是顾客移民、当地人到中国购物或前往日本受益于弱势日元,再加上缺乏游客。
Yu says he's had to make the "heartbreaking" decision to close his store and move it online.
Yu 表示他不得不做出“令人心碎”的决定,关闭实体店并将业务转移到线上。
"I almost want to cry when I talk about it," said Yu, packing his unsold stationery and toys into storage boxes.
"每次谈起这件事,我几乎忍不住想哭," 于说着,把他那些未售出的文具和玩具装进了储物盒里。
"There are very few tourists on the streets, even the mainland Chinese are very few."
Hong Kong is struggling to recover since the COVID pandemic, which saw many expatiates leave after a three year shutdown, and tourist numbers dwindle to a fraction of pre-pandemic levels. High rents and a labour shortage are now adding to the pain.
Businesses describe shopping malls as "dead", with low foot traffic and shops covered with "for lease" or "coming up soon" signs.
Edmund Wong, an accountancy sector lawmaker, told the city's legislature last Friday that more than 20,000 companies had deregistered in the first quarter of 2024, up more than 70% from the same period last year.
会计行业的立法者 Edmund Wong 上周五告诉该市的立法机构,2024 年第一季度有超过 20,000 家公司注销登记,比去年同期增加了 70%以上。
Simon Wong, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, told public broadcaster RTHK that he estimated around 200-300 restaurants had closed over the past month, a trend he expects to continue.
香港餐饮及相关行业联合会会长黄健翔告诉公共广播机构 RTHK,他估计过去一个月已有大约 200-300 家餐厅关闭,他预计这一趋势将持续下去。
On Tuesday, Hong Kong leader John Lee played down concerns about businesses closing.
"The world is always changing, and different industries will need to adapt, so there will be operators who are not so successful but new-comers are getting into the market."
Item 1 of 5 People walk past a closed-down retail shop in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, China April 29, 2024. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
Even with the Golden Week holiday starting on Wednesday, a traditionally busy time for shopping and entertainment, many businesses are not optimistic.
"I don’t think the Golden Week will help much," said Wendy, 54, who works at a noodle shop in Mong Kok's Ladies Market.
"我觉得黄金周对帮助不大,"54 岁的 Wendy 在旺角女人街的一家面条店工作时表示。
"There were many tourists on this street ... but they're gone now."
Hong Kong residents are also deserting local shops and increasingly travelling across the border to the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen for food and entertainment, where they say prices and service are better.
"Hong Kong people are heading north to consume, which has become a clear trend. On weekends, many Hong Kong people go to Shenzhen for consumption," said Ting Lu, chief China economist at Nomura based in Hong Kong.
"近年来,越来越多的香港人选择到北方城市消费,这已经成为一种明显的趋势。在周末,许多香港人会前往深圳进行消费。" 香港野村首席中国经济学家陆挺表示。
"The reason is that in the past five years, prices in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and even Changsha have hardly changed much. But in Hong Kong ... We have found that the price difference has widened, which has encouraged Hong Kong people to go north for consumption."
After Hong Kong reopened its border post-pandemic with China last year, the Tourism Board recorded a 38.9% drop in mainland visitors in 2023, compared with 2019 before the pandemic.
香港在去年与中国在疫情后重新开放边境后,旅游局记录显示,2023 年与 2019 年疫情前相比,内地游客数量下降了 38.9%。
Spending by same-day mainland tourists plunged 36.4% in 2023, dropping from an average of HK$2,200 per person in 2019 to HK$1,400 after the border reopened last year.
随着边境重开,2023 年同日内地游客的消费大幅下降了 36.4%,从 2019 年的人均 2200 港元降至 1400 港元。
In the Hong Kong border town of Sheung Shui, where residents once used to complain about mainland Chinese overcrowding the town and pushing up rents as they flocked to buy everything from cosmetics and medicine to daily necessities, business is quiet.
Li, 30, a cosmetic shop keeper from Sheung Shui, said local consumers now tended to shop across the border in Shenzhen and the "the off-season" had now come earlier.
30 岁的李是一家位于上水的化妆品店老板,他说当地消费者现在更倾向于到深圳跨境购物,导致“淡季”提前到来。
Lee, 35, a hamburger shopkeeper in Mong Kok district, said business had worsened since the border reopened.
"There is no one after eight o'clock, and it’s even scarier during the holidays. There are no tourists. Just like the past Easter holidays, we could sit and sleep here for three hours."

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Reporting by Jessie Pang, Joyce Zhou and Edward Cho, additional reporting by Kevin Yao in Beijing; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Michael Perry
Jessie Pang、Joyce Zhou 和 Edward Cho 报道,北京的 Kevin Yao 提供了额外信息;由 Anne Marie Roantree 和 Michael Perry 编辑

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Thomson Reuters 汤姆森路透

Jessie Pang joined Reuters in 2019 after an internship. She covers Hong Kong with a focus on politics and general news.
Jessie Pang 在 2019 年实习后加入了路透社。她主要报道香港的政治和一般新闻。

Thomson Reuters 汤姆森路透

Joyce is a talented visual journalist based in Hong Kong and Greater China, driven by a profound passion for capturing historical moments and sharing stories through the medium of video. Her exceptional skills and dedication to her craft earned her the prestigious title of Reuters Video Journalist of the Year in 2019. Joyce's work revolves around documenting significant events and exploring the rich cultural tapestry of the region. Outside of her professional pursuits, she finds solace and inspiration in hiking, immersing herself in the beauty of nature. With a deep appreciation for tea, Joyce enjoys discovering its diverse flavours and delving into its rich history.
乔伊斯是一位才华横溢的视觉记者,驻扎在香港和大中华地区,她热衷于捕捉历史瞬间,并通过视频媒介分享故事。她在 2019 年荣获路透视频记者年度大奖,展现出卓越的技能和对工艺的执着。乔伊斯的工作主要是记录重要事件和探索该地区丰富多彩的文化。在工作之余,她喜欢徒步旅行,沉浸在大自然的美景中,寻找慰藉和灵感。对茶有着深厚的情感,乔伊斯喜欢品尝各种口味的茶,深入挖掘茶文化的丰富历史。