Business

Business

Restaurant workers tested for COVID-19 ahead of relaxed restrictions

On the final day of the Chinese New Year, workers from the catering industry headed to community testing centres to get tested for COVID-19. On Feb 10, Sophia Chan Siu-Chee, secretary for Food & Health said in a press conference that restaurants may be allowed to extend their business hours until 10 p.m starting Feb 18 after the Chinese New Year Holidays, if numbers of COVID-19 cases continue to go down.  In addition to extended operating hours, restaurants can allow four people to dine in per table restaurant staff test for covid every 14 days and the establishment must use the LeaveHomeSafe mobile application so customers can keep record of their visit.  All community test centers in Hong Kong have been fully booked on days prior to Feb 18th.  People wait outside Henry G Leong Yau Ma Tei Community Centre to get tested for Covid on the last day of Chinese New Year. “My manager told us all to get tested as soon as possible so we can go to work,” said Monica Rai, 28, waitress. She was at Henry G Leong Yau Ma Tei Community Centre with two other co-workers.   Regarding the LeaveHomeSafe app, MsRai said that her workplace does not enforce it on customers.  “It’s useless,” she said. “Customers walk right past the QR code and managers are also indifferent.”  Restaurants that do not comply with the new regulations will have to shut down for 14 days and the restaurant license owners may be fined a maximum amount of HK$50,000 and face imprisonment for  six months.  

Business

Lan Kwai Fong bars under Covid-19

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: LIM Jia Qi 林家琦、LI Chen、Lyu Chenyu、GU LinEdited by: Simran Vaswani
  • 2021-02-14

While Hong Kong was on the edge of a fourth wave of Covid-19 cases in November 2020, bars in Lan Kwai Fong violated the gathering restriction in which no more than four persons might be seated together at one table. We went to an underground bar and privately asked them if we could sit together if we had two more friends coming, which made a total of five.

Culture & Leisure

Anti-pandemic measures baffle florists in Lunar New Year Fair

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Vikki Cai Chuchu、Kwok Chiu Tung 郭昭彤Edited by: Zhu Zijin Cora 朱子槿
  • 2021-02-12

On Lunar New Year's Eve, buyers crowded the Mongkok Flower Market for last-minute shopping while the 15 government-organized festival flower markets were relatively quiet due to anti-pandemic measurements, which curtailed the number of stalls by half, limited visitors and slashed operating hours. The Hong Kong government once decided to stop organizing this year’s Lunar New Year Flower Fair but changed its mind to announce on Jan. 19 that the 15 flower markets would be opened for the festive period of seven days but with crowd-control measures. Many Hong Kong florists who planned to join the Lunar New Year Flower Market had already taken alternative plans including renting pop-up shops and selling online. “We have rented a shop for selling flowers, but the government suddenly changed after two weeks,” said Hung Chun-kit, 31, one of the florists. He said that they were not able to return the deposit to the shop owner and the government measurement made them lose their head. Even though the government exempted the rents for the 2021 Lunar New Year Flower Markets, it would not be enough to compensate florists’ extra costs and reduced sales. “The scale has been downsized with crowd-control measurement, customer flow is fewer than before. It is hard to gain profit even though the Lunar New Year Flower Market was uncharged, ” said Mr Hung. The scale of the fair had been down to 50%, the number of booths is limited. Therefore, florists continued to rent empty shops to sell flowers because these shops have no crowded-control measurements. “The government announcements are messing around our businesses, and this is an erratic situation for our industry,” said Tse Wong Siu-yin, 45, chairperson of Hong Kong Flower Retailers Association. Lam Sze-ching, 72, a florist who won the bid but did not join the fair while …

Business

Hong Kong hotels struggle to stay afloat despite staycation fad

Chui Yuk-hei, a 26-year-old event planner, checked into several luxury hotels in November. She enjoyed her stay at the Mandarin Oriental, the Peninsula Hong Kong and the Four Seasons. “I never tried them before because these top hotels were super expensive,” Ms Chui said, “but now they all offer affordable overnight staycation packages. It’s the best time to enjoy their services.” She spent about HK$9,000 on three hotels in total, less than half the original prices.  More Hong Kongers like Ms Chui are going on staycations, spending holidays in hotels this year. But amid the coronavirus gloom, staycations are not enough to boost revenues, and local hotels still face uncertainties. The fourth wave of Covid-19 infections started in the city in late November 2020. Before that, clusters of cases linked to staycations prompted the government to limit the number of guests in each hotel room to four people only. “Health concerns made many customers cancel their staycation, “ said Benson Soo Koon-chau, 46, manager of four-star One-Eight-One Hotel & Serviced Residences in Sai Wan.      “Staycation is a very up-and-down business,” Mr Soo said. “Many hotels’ staycation business has been largely affected. It’s unlike long-staying service, which people need to pre-pay, no matter whether they eventually check in or not.” One-Eight-One Hotel has increased the portion of long-term leases for customers staying longer than two weeks to earn more stable revenue, he said. “I won’t go on staycation any time soon. It’s not safe. Even before the fourth wave, I would check the health measures at each hotel first,” Ms Chui said.  The pandemic has hit hard on the city’s hospitality industry which already suffered from anti-government protests in 2019. The occupancy rate slumped to 39% in the first six months of 2020 from the previous year’s 90% for …

Business

Kuaishou shares triple in Hong Kong trading debut

Kuaishou Technology (1024), China’s short-video service provider, saw its shares nearly tripled in its trading debut in Hong Kong on Friday, boosting the company’s market valuation to a high of US$180 billion (HK$ 13.95 trillion) following its initial public (IPO) offering, the largest in Hong Kong since 2019. The stock hit a high of HK$345 in the morning before stabilising to close at HK$300, up 160.87% percent from its IPO price of HK$115 a piece. Kuaishou's share sale of  US$5.29 billion (HK$41.3 billion) is the biggest in Hong Kong following Budweiser’s Asia unit’s IPO, which raised HK$5.75 billion in 2019. Wesley Wong, a 29 year old investment banker, made a profit of HK$20,500 after selling one lot or 100 shares of Kuaishou at HK$320. He subscribed to the shares via a local brokerage and put up about HK$1 million. The stock was in hot demand with retail investors bidding for 1,204 times the amount of shares available for open subscription. Kuaishou makes its profit from providing live-streaming, online market and E-commerce and  games services, and advertising, the company said in its listing document. The successful listing of Kuaishou will bring confidence to other Chinese video service providers, including ByteDance and  Bilibili, to float their shares in the Hong Kong stock exchange, said Bloomberg Intelligence senior analyst Vey-Sern Ling in a report.  Kuaishou’s larger rival Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok owned by ByteDance, is planning to file an IPO in Hong Kong, according to Reuters. Douyin has 600 million daily active users while Kuaishou only has 262.4 million daily active users. “The markets in which we operate are highly competitive, and we face significant competition,” Kuaishou said in its prospectus. It posted a revenue of HK$49 billion in the first nine months of 2020, up 49 percent from the same …

Business

Catering industry calls for resumption of evening dine-in for fear of large-scale business closures

Bar and restaurant owners urged the government to loosen COVID-19 restrictions on dining to help the industry survive, representatives said in a press conference Wednesday, while also calling for additional government subsidies. Their demands include reopening dine-in services and bars past 6pm under conditions that businesses observe disease prevention measures and expanding the gathering limit to more than two people. The government could use the time between Chinese New Year's Eve and the third day of the holiday to "test" whether the relaxation would be practical, the group suggested.  Marcus Liu, a member of the New People's Party who spoke at the press conference, said the operational cost of a restaurant is about HK$400,000 to HK$500,000 monthly, and that so far, government subsidies have been inadequate.  The government, under the Anti-epidemic Fund, has given a one-off HK$25,000 and HK$50,000 three times to eligible liquor-licensed premises.  The Employment Support Scheme also helped employers pay salaries to staff with a maximum $9,000 per employee per month.  But business owners say the aid is insufficient and they had to choose between paying rent or employee salaries, said Joe Chan, a representative of the Hong Kong Bar & Club Association.  Some bar owners said to him they were planning to suspend business after Chinese New Year because they saw no future, Mr Chan added.  “The theory that the virus is not active during the day and gets active in the evening -- we all don’t understand,” he said, regarding the dine-in ban past 6pm.  He added that they have complied with seating capacity and hygiene practices such as checking the temperature of guests and disinfecting table surfaces after use. Around 140 bars shut down over the past three months, accounting for 10% of the sector, said the vice-president of the Hong Kong Bar and …

Society

Hong Kong tailor designs light wedding dress on a growing craze

Apart from long trail and princess-like cake wedding gowns, a young local designer -tailor designs and produces simple but sophisticated dresses, known as the “light wedding dress.” Despite the complex and difficult process in producing wedding dresses, Ms Lai dreams to bring the craze of light wedding dress to light and produce aesthetic wedding dresses for each bride.  According to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the size of the creative industry has increased by 5.3% steadily since 2018. In spite of the growing industry, Ms Lai has faced hurdles along and questioned the support for the creative industry by the government. 

Society

Hani Halal – The Award-winning business making Hong Kong Halal-conscious

From Halal lollipops to gelatine sheets, Hani Halal's online shop sells anything Halal as the name suggests. With no artificial colours, the shop's fan favourite sweet rose lollipop is hand-decorated for its customers.  In October 2020, the business won an award for its Medjoul dates at the LOHAS Expo cum Vegetarian Food Asia 2020.  The term Halal is an Arabic word that means "permissible." In the context of food, it refers to the dietary requirements of Muslims based on their Islamic faith. Muslims cannot eat pork and have special procedures for the slaughtering of meat, according to their religious rites.  Hani Halal, officially known as 3 Hani Enterprises Limited, started two years ago, in 2018, to bring a viable option for consumers of Halal food. Ms Leung, together with two other partners and the Incorporated Trustees of the Islamic Community Fund of Hong Kong, the official body for Muslims in Hong Kong, helped make her vision become a reality. "Food is the most easy way to connect with people, especially in Hong Kong. We talk business through food. So, food is something that is easy to connect with people," she said. She added that her business sells products globally, but mainly focuses on Hong Kong and Macau.   The award-winning business has also won a Manpower Development Award for 2020 from the Employment Retraining Board (ERB) for training both Muslims and non-Muslims on the dietary requirements of Halal food. There is a considerable demand for Halal food in Hong Kong, with 65% following a strict halal diet, according to research conducted by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.  The city has 300,000 Muslims from various backgrounds, making up 4.6% of the city's population, according to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's Home Affairs Bureau. Muslims first came to the city during the British …

Business

HK E-payment market expected an increase of 10.5% for 2020/21

Liang Jia uses WeChat Pay for her groceries when shopping in Marketplace as the Chinese digital wallet operator stepped up promotion to lure users amid a booming online payment service boosted by COVID-19. Digital wallet companies want to boost their turnover during the pandemic. Digital wallets in Hong Kong like WeChat Pay, AliPay and Bank of China have launched multiple promotions for the e-payment users to be benefited from.  "Since I heard of the risk of transmission of COVID-19 by cash, I use contactless payment methods more often," said Ms Liang, a 29-year-old insurance broker. Hong Kong recorded 23 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Nov. 12, including 6 local infections. The city now has reported 5431 confirmed cases with 5170 patients recovered and 108 people died.  Speaking on a radio program earlier in mid-October, microbiologist and government adviser on the coronavirus pandemic, Yuen Kwok-yung expressed concerns that using banknotes to purchase increases the risk of infection. The research from Australia's national science agency CSIRO stated that the COVID-19 can survive on cash for up to 28 days at 20°C. Mr Yuen also addressed that the government should explore different digital payment methods with the business sector, contactless payment should be stepped up to reduce infection risks. Indeed, more shoppers prefer using self-checkouts to avoid contact with people. A cashier at Wellcome who refuses to disclose her name because she does not want to represent the company to speak. She said more customers have started to use self-checkout since the outbreak of COVID-19. The pandemic also creates more demands for the usage of financial technology tools as people tend to stay at home, and prefer online shopping over brick-and-mortar stores. Fintech adopts new technology to improve and automate the delivery and use of financial services. Its core is utilized to help …

Business

Live streaming commerce triggers another wave of consumption

"Don't go to sleep! Stay awake! Or you will lose hundreds of yuan!" A male live anchor yelled on the mobile phone screen, banging a gong. It was already 12 o'clock in midnight. Li Yuqing, a 20-year-old student from The Open University of Hong Kong, couldn't take her eyes off this live stream conducted by Austin Li, one of the hottest live streamers in mainland China. Meanwhile, another 100 million viewers tuned in, just like Ms Li.  Ms Li spent one thousand yuan on skin care products, pet supplies, and some luxuries from this live streamed show. It lasted seven hours and closed 8.809 million orders worth 690 million yuan. "Live streamers can provide more detailed explanations of the goods during live streaming, as well a lower price and more freebies," Ms Li said. This year's Double Eleven sales promotion activities have kicked off from Oct.21, with series of live broadcasts on the mainstream social media platform. According to the E-commerce live broadcast daily rank, the total revenue created by top 20 sales anchors from Taobao, Kuaishou, Tik Tok, reached 7.26 billion yuan on one day. This sales model releases huge consumption potential, drives the resumption of production and work, and becomes an important engine of traditional consumption and economic transformation. In February, over 30,000 sales anchors accessed to Taobao per day. The number of new anchors can see 100%. New live broadcasts as well as a 110% year-over-year growth in Gross Merchandise Volume. According to Sohu, Guangzhou Live E-commerce Research Institute and data provider Datastory jointly issued a live e-commerce trend report. The report reveals that the average of live views peaked in July at 2.4 million, but the average of each live streaming sales was at the lowest point during the same period, and turned to rise in …