Shops at a struggling mall near the Shenzhen border are finally seeing signs of hope as mainland Chinese tourists are being diverted there for meals, a move expected to help ease the pressure on the city’s residential areas – and reduce complaints by locals.
After enduring a quiet year at San Tin Shopping City, also called The Boxes, since its launch last February, shop owners started to feel some momentum as for the past two weeks, tour guides had taken more than 100 visitors there each day.
From Wednesday, with a big restaurant set to open in the complex, more than 1,500 mainland tourists a day were expected to be ushered to the site for dining and shopping.
Kenny Leung, spokesman for Answer Consultant, a consultancy firm for the mall, expected the situation to improve as close to 90 per cent of the 216 shop lots were ready for business.
“Coupled with the diversionary measures for mainland tourists, we expect this place to start to thrive. You can’t find anywhere in Hong Kong with such a spacious dining and shopping area and parking. There won’t be any problems about visitors causing a disturbance for local residents,” he said.
Leung’s upbeat outlook came despite stagnation at The Boxes for the past year, as it incurred losses of HK$2 million every month with no rent collected from shop tenants.
Leung said the mall would adopt a profit-sharing model instead of asking tenants for rent.
He said tour agencies had recently started to send mainland tourists to The Boxes, located in San Tin in northeast Yuen Long, for meals before they were taken to destinations such as Wong Tai Sin Temple and Tsim Sha Tsui, following growing grievances from locals about visitors inundating residential areas.
Just over a month ago, 300 tour groups arrived daily on average, sparking anger as visitors packed residential areas such as To Kwa Wan, Kowloon City and Hung Hom.
Residents said the increase had disrupted their lives, and the already narrow streets had become difficult to navigate. Tour buses were parked outside office and residential buildings, blocking access, they said.
On Monday, restaurant owners at The Boxes said two tours, each of around 50 people, had arrived and helped to boost business. But the groups only stayed for 45 minutes and did not shop.
Tour guide Siu Wing-kin said his firm Nanhu International Travel Service told him to bring one group every day to The Boxes for lunch as the mall would provide a spacious environment for dining without the need to fight locals for space in busy urban areas.
“So far, the tourists’ feedback has been quite good. After meals I’ll bring them to other destinations. Depending on the mall’s operation, my firm may change the itinerary very soon and arrange for the tourists to stay behind for shopping,” he said.
Henry Liu, who invested about HK$500,000 in his restaurant Lan Hang Kitchen, said business had been slack for a year until the past two weeks.
“Sometimes I didn’t see any mainland tourists for a day,” he said. “Now with more tourists coming, I hope our business will get better.”
The mall’s 420,000 sq ft plot has been leased to its owner at a nominal fee of HK$1 by Sun Hung Kai Properties and Henderson Land Development.
This article Arrival of mainland Chinese tourists brings hope to struggling Hong Kong border mall The Boxes first appeared on South China Morning Post
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