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Commentary: To bring back nightlife, Hong Kong needs to upgrade its night markets

LONDON: Hong Kong’s COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted for months, and daily life seems to be back to normal. However, one thing has changed fundamentally – Hong Kongers spend more time at home after work, and the city’s nightlife is not as vibrant as before.

If you travel to Hong Kong right now, you will find that public trains are less busy than they used to be after working hours. Some overnight minibuses have even quietly stopped operating.

Popular restaurants may still have a queue during dinner, but many waiters mainly look on at empty tables, especially on weekdays. After multiple lockdowns and tight evening dine-in restrictions, Hong Kongers have clearly adapted to the new routine.

The government, therefore, launched the “Night Vibes Hong Kong” campaign last month to save dining and entertainment businesses. The campaign encompasses night-time events and festivals to rejuvenate the faded image of “the city that never sleeps”.

It is urgently needed as Hong Kong’s economic data is not looking good.

In the second quarter of 2023, Hong Kong’s economy grew 1.5 per cent year-on-year, down from 2.9 per cent in the first quarter. Due to the uncertainty of the global economy, fixed capital investment and exports declined.

Despite promotional campaigns and thousands of free flight tickets to lure tourists, the number of visitor arrivals is still less than half of that before the pandemic.

Private consumption is a relatively bright spot, registering an 8.5 per cent year-on-year increase in the second quarter of 2023. However, it has yet to fully recover. One reason is that locals are more willing to shop and dine in locales like Shenzhen and Japan. The desire to travel and experience what they missed during COVID-19 has held back local spending.

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