Around one million people headed to Hong Kong during mainland China’s ‘golden week’ holiday, yet according to retailers, the additional footfall didn’t result in higher sales.

The Immigration Department statistics showed a million people visited Hong Kong from 29th September. However, this figure was offset by the 1.4 million Hongkongers who departed the city for the holiday week.

According to a retail survey undertaken by real estate services firm JLL, all respondents reported a “notable increase” in footfall of as much as 30% from 29th September, yet retail sales were akin to a typical weekend.

JLL added that although turnover was generally in line with an average weekend, the Tsim Sha Tsui area has outperformed others in terms of sales, South China Morning Post reports.

“Retailers are losing confidence in the business prospects for the Lunar New Year in 2024, following disappointing retail sales during the golden week,” said JLL Hong Kong’s head of retail, Oliver Tong.

“JLL expects retailers to slow down their expansion plans in the fourth quarter of 2023, and the upward trend in retail rents is losing momentum.”

He went on to add that a boost from the government’s “Night Vibes Hong Kong” campaign for the economy and retail were “yet to be seen.”

Tong cautioned that the campaign had resulted in “a diversion of shoppers from shopping malls and districts to the night market” and may lead to a further reduction in sales.

Whereas earlier this week, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-Chiu said events within the campaign had been “well-received”, and the results were “satisfactory.”

He went on to add that around 100,000 people had taken part, and he was confident about the contribution the initiative would make to the economy.

“There is no hope for a quick rebound by Lunar New Year,” stated Gary Ng Cheuk-yan, senior economist at Natixis.

“There is clearly a change in consumer spending patterns, which means the inflation-adjusted tourism spending may not return to the pandemic level any time soon.”

He cited the government’s strict COVID policies on the sluggish recovery to tourism, weighing on competitiveness and halting development, meaning Hong Kong was “not ready for the new normal”.

“Even though Hong Kong retail sales will still rebound by 16% in 2023, it is only a base effect, and the structural challenges remain more important than ever,” he stated.

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