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.
香港,4 月 30 日(路透社)- 48 岁的余先生十多年前在香港开设了他的日本礼品店时,旺角这个旅游和购物区还是一个熙熙攘攘的中心,挤满了摊位、街头美食和游客。
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.
快进 12 年,该地区的部分地区正努力维持生计,客户移民、当地人前往中国边境购物或前往日本受益于疲弱的日元汇率,以及缺乏游客的组合。
Yu says he's had to make the "heartbreaking" decision to close his store and move it online.
"I almost want to cry when I talk about it," said Yu, packing his unsold stationery and toys into storage boxes.
"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.
自 COVID 疫情以来,香港一直在努力恢复,许多外籍人士在三年的关闭后离开,游客数量也降至疫情前的一小部分。高昂的租金和劳动力短缺现在正在加剧痛苦。
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.
会计行业立法者黄志贤上周五告诉该市立法机构,2024 年第一季度有超过 20,000 家公司注销登记,比去年同期增长超过 70%。
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.
香港餐饮业联合会主席黄健平告诉公共广播机构 RTHK,他估计过去一个月已有大约 200-300 家餐厅关闭,他预计这一趋势将继续下去。
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.
“我不认为黄金周会有太大帮助,”54 岁的 Wendy 在旺角女人街的一家面店工作。
"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.
"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.
香港在疫情后与中国重新开放边境后,旅游事务处记录显示,2023 年与疫情前 2019 年相比,内地游客减少了 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.
随同日内地游客的消费在 2023 年下降了 36.4%,从 2019 年每人平均消费的港币 2,200 元降至去年边境重新开放后的港币 1,400 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.
来自上水的 30 岁化妆品店老板李女士表示,现在本地消费者倾向于到深圳跨境购物,而“淡季”现在来得更早了。
Lee, 35, a hamburger shopkeeper in Mong Kok district, said business had worsened since the border reopened.
现年 35 岁的李先生是旺角区一家汉堡店的老板,他表示自边境重新开放以来,生意变得更糟。
"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

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Thomson Reuters 汤森路透(Thomson Reuters)

Jessie Pang joined Reuters in 2019 after an internship. She covers Hong Kong with a focus on politics and general news.
Jessie Pang 在实习后于 2019 年加入路透社。她报道香港的政治和一般新闻。

Thomson Reuters 汤森路透(Thomson Reuters)

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.
Joyce 是一位才华横溢的视觉记者,驻扎在香港和大中华地区,深深热爱通过视频媒介捕捉历史瞬间和分享故事。她卓越的技能和对工作的热情使她在 2019 年荣获路透社年度视频记者的荣誉称号。Joyce 的工作围绕着记录重要事件和探索这个地区丰富的文化。在职业追求之外,她在徒步旅行中找到了慰藉和灵感,沉浸在大自然的美丽中。Joyce 深深欣赏茶文化,喜欢发掘茶的多样口味和深入了解其丰富的历史。