The days start getting lighter

A little ray of sunshine brightens the gloom on this shortest day of the year: Hong Kong’s tourism industry is dying a horrible painful death, its blood oozing down the gutters of Nathan Road, trickling across the Avenue of Stars, and drip-drip-dripping into the harbour. The reason, according to the South China Morning Post headline, is local anti-Mainland sentiment…

SCMP-AntiMainland

Confusingly (and if we are to be brutally honest, rather disappointingly), the strapline blames a crackdown by Mainland authorities. Then the article itself ventures to suggest a third cause for the decline, namely the tourism industry’s own despicable and surely counterproductive habit of killing visitors who fail to spend sufficient amounts of money.

Readers are further bemused when they learn that the calamity facing the city’s most (or second- or third-most) unpopular economic sector is less fatal and gory than we are led to believe. The number of visitors from the Mainland (or ‘China’ as the pre-Alibaba SCMP calls it) is down by a microscopic 0.2%. The only market segment to experience a halfway noticeable downturn, of 20%, is Mainland tour groups – the ragged, red-cheeked peasants who alight buses in Tsimshatsui East to squat and gaze around them in shock at the sight paved roads and electric lighting. Meanwhile, my own neighbourhood is inundated with selfie-stick-waving Koreans, whose infatuation with the area is as boundless as it is inexplicable. (Perhaps they are fleeing the Mainland tourists who, the Hong Kong tourism lobby sometimes-but-not-this-time complains, are doing their shopping in Seoul rather than here.)

Despite the dishearteningly modest decline in the Tourist Menace, there are signs that Hong Kong’s tacky luxury retailers have over-extended themselves and are starting to scale back, at least in some locations. This frees up space for shops selling useful and affordable things to local people, like we used to have in the old days. The SCMP reports the opening of a new bookstore branch in Times Square as part of this trend. But the reporter can’t get her head round her own paper’s fixation with the landlord lobby’s whining…

SCMP-BookstoreEx

…and describes the book outlet’s expansion as if were happening despite rather than because of the Tourism/Retail Gushing-Blood Disaster Mayhem. (Times Square is course the mall that Page One had to quit earlier this year.)

So, in truth, luxury retailers’ shallow, short-term business strategies and Mainland clampdowns on homicidal tour-operators are not accompanying the serious fall in tourist numbers we would all like to see. But we should not give up hope. Beijing’s anti-corruption campaign looks set to continue, perhaps further depressing demand for such bribe-matter as high-end watches and pricey folk medicines. The Chinese government also wants to boost domestic consumer spending, which could – fingers crossed – reduce incentives to shop offshore. Even more enticingly, as well as the peg pulling the Hong Kong Dollar up, Beijing’s past economic mismanagement makes a weakening Renminbi look highly likely. To some extent, we might see a return of the days when it was Hongkongers who crossed the border for cheap stuff, as nature surely intended.

Meanwhile, we can all enjoy the agony and wailing of the tourism industry as it imagines itself to be in pain. And we can lick our lips in anticipation of how loud the parasites will squeal when visitor arrivals and rents really start to drop.

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6 Responses to The days start getting lighter

  1. Chinese Netizen says:

    Blame it on the yoot!! Blame it on the yoot!!
    Those unappreciative young louts that can’t get a six figure/month job in high finance, or the civil service and then taking it to the streets to protest!!
    They ought to be looking to the offspring of the tycooooons for guidance on how to better prepare yourself for a competitive workplace or a more entrepreneurial attitude!! Ejucayshun…fingers-to-the-bone labour…long hours…or just being born lucky.
    Your choice.

  2. PD says:

    Classic Hemlock — thanks for brightening my day!

  3. Knownot says:

    We are all Chinese.
    Try to understand me and be sympathetic, please.
    Only twice a week or maybe three times that I come.
    I only want to buy a little chocolate for my mum.

    Enterprise and trade.
    That is how a better life for everyone is made.
    I’m just a modest traveller, not dangerous or bad.
    I only want to buy a little medicine for my dad.

    I came again today
    And went to Wellcome and to Prizemart in the usual way.
    Big Lychee wrote a post condemning everything I did.
    I only came to buy a little formula for my kid.

    You sneer at me and blame
    But, living in a Shenzen box, you’d surely do the same.
    And if I buy some other lesser products off the shelf,
    I only want to make a little profit for myself.

  4. Old Newcomer says:

    There is of course an irony here that the government is too stupid to see. The more they try to alarm everyone by squealing about how anti-mainland protests are hurting the sacred god of tourism, the more the young localists congratulate themselves on their success and redouble their efforts. So the government’s exaggeration feeds the very behaviour it condemns.

  5. lyric lover says:

    Bravo, Knownot! We need a collection of your works.

  6. Nimby says:

    Just got back from Taiwan, where the locals are living through their own version of Mainland Tourist from hell. Unlike most of the rest of the island, Taipei Taiwanese & many Mainland Chinese share the same spoken dialect, but this exasperates the difference, no barrier to hide the cultural differences and soften the implied insults (almost exclusively flowing from the mainlanders).

    While I had to constantly dimure to Taiwanese offering my pre-maturely grey head a seat on the MRT or bus, I would hear the mainlanders urging their comrades to rush over to “pillage/rape/conquor/loot”**” the vacated seat (快抢位子). Mao believed in constant revolution to create a new amoral ubermench, and it seems China and now the rest of the world may have gotten much of what he bargained for.

    ** This terminology is used by many in Hong Kong, so perhaps the clash of culture locally isn’t quite as big as made out, and some of the ill feelings is simply catching a glimpse of a slightly exaggerated ugly self in a mirror. The HK Nativist are just as good at haranguing and mob behavior as any Red Guard.

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