Hong Kong’s government recently ended its last remaining Covid-19 restrictions, meaning the city is finally “back in business” after a difficult few years. Hong Kong’s Covid restrictions were some of the toughest in the entire world. Evidence of the strict measures for three long years can be seen in empty skyscrapers, board-up luxury storefronts, and quiet streets which were once known for their active nightlife and entertainment zones. The strict rules have caused upheavals including protests from residents and have also hurt the city’s reputation as the ‘financial hub of Asia’.
The rollback of restrictions has been gradual. In September, the government discontinued the previous 12-day compulsory hotel quarantine for visitors and replaced it with a ‘0+3’ policy, which meant three days of medical surveillance and limited movement in the city. On December 13th, the ‘0+3’ policy was also phased out. Now, international travelers can visit pubs or restaurants if they test negative on arrival. The mask mandate, however, remains in place.
The strict rules prevented many visitors, both tourists as well as those traveling for business from visiting the city. But with the city set to relax most rules, businesses in Hong Kong can finally look forward to an easier 2023. We looked at Near’s data from September to mid-October to assess the immediate impact of the easing of restrictions in Hong Kong.
Here are some key takeaways from the research:
1. Residents have had a 20% increase in movement since the lifting of restrictions
2. Shopping malls show the fastest recovery among all the categories analyzed
3. Younger audiences (under 35) are especially eager to return to normal
4. International visitors are yet to return, as the ‘0+3’ rule was in place until very recently, but are likely to show an increase soon
The data shows a definite uptick in the mobility of residents with the restrictions eased. With the holiday season almost here, businesses can expect residents to shop, dine out and resume normal activities like visiting theatres, etc. Residents may also look forward to travel, both domestic as well as international as they will no longer have to conform to long quarantine periods upon returning.
Where are visitors going?
The categories that have recorded a steady increase in visitors are shopping malls, cafes, bars, and tourist attractions. The example below shows that the number of visitors to Disneyland almost returned to 2019 levels. The graph uses 2019 numbers as a baseline for each of the months (illustrated by the pink line.)
The graphs below show the human movement trends at shopping centers, bars, cafes and tourist attractions following the relaxation of rules. The numbers for week 1 of September were taking the baseline to measure week over week trend in footfall.
Shopping malls and bars recorded an almost immediate rise in visitors, while it steadily rose for cafes and tourist destinations.
What are the visitor demographics?
1. Shopping malls: Most visitors to shopping malls were from audiences 18-34. The IFC mall, which attracted more visitors from the 18-24 age group, is located in the International Financial Center, and could also include visitors to the 55-story Marriott Hotel located in the same building. As the holiday season continued, brands continued to see in-store shopping increase.
2. Tourist destinations: For most tourist destinations, parents with children formed the majority of the visitors followed by single or young travelers. Destinations that offered entertainment for families, such as Disneyland, attracted parents, whereas destinations such as the Hong Kong Observation Deck attracted visits from couples without children and solo travelers.
3. Bars and Cafes: Bars and cafes attracted younger demographics including young professionals, young couples as well as solo travelers. Data revealed that young and affluent female professionals were seen at cafes and bars frequently.
What is the Brand Affinity of these audiences?
Chanel, Armani, Gucci
Adidas, Fila, Nike, Reebok
Starbucks, Pacific Coffee Company, Fuel Espresso
Genki Sushi, Otacho Sushi, Sushi Takeout
Grand Hyatt, Ritz-Carlton, Shangrila, Sheraton
In conclusion, the data does reveal a slow but steady return to normal. We expect the numbers to gain momentum in the coming year providing there are no changes to the lifting of restrictions. Authorities also expect Chinese mainlanders who left due to the strict restrictions to return soon and cause an uptick in local tourism