“Eateries are closing down and stores are half-empty, so the Hong Kong ‘experience’ isn’t what it once was – and certainly not enough to drive people across the border.”
“I can only speak personally, but I have no doubt that Chinese consumers will return to Hong Kong post-virus,” says Douglas Young, owner and founder of local lifestyle brand G.O.D. “I am far more concerned that the protests will resume after the epidemic, in which case all tourists will be really put off.
“The protests halved my business from June to December, and the virus has further reduced it by another 40 per cent since January. The virus issue is resolvable and will be resolved, but the societal issues are more long-lasting.”
Comments on the pandemic from Western leaders such as Donald Trump, who has pointed the finger at China, have triggered many of the country’s citizens to become more defensive. Douglas Young, owner and founder of G.O.D, says the Chinese propaganda machine will have a strong influence on whether Chinese shoppers will return to Hong Kong. Photo: Nicola Chan
“Yes, there has been tension between the US and Chinese party members, but the Chinese people would far more likely direct their anger towards the American government than towards Hongkongers,” says Ming Sing, an associate professor of social science at the University of Hong Kong specialising in Hong Kong politics.
“However, what we have seen in the past is Beijing trying very hard to say that the anti-extradition protests [that spawned the wider Hong Kong movement] were actually about independence. This propaganda can lead to some mainlanders not liking Hong Kong.”
Young largely agrees. “It really depends on how the propaganda machine influences the thinking of the Chinese tourists,” he says. “They are capable of acting en masse. If, for example, America decides to make China compensate for losses due to the pandemic, China may be forced to promote inward consumption, which is bound to be nationalistic.”
With the virus and the protests adding up to almost a year of malaise for Hong Kong retailers, time is running out to find a solution to tempt Chinese shoppers back – and there’s a lot of pressure to get it right.
adapted from SCMP
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