Hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers have crossed the border to mainland China for the long weekend that covers the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day, with some saying Shenzhen offers more affordable and appealing options.
Immigration figures showed over 300,000 Hongkongers headed to the mainland on Friday, with others following on Saturday as the three-day long weekend started. The Lo Wu checkpoint was packed with so many travellers on the first day of the break that some simply skipped completing a mandatory health declaration.
Marketing executive Camila Yeung Mei-kuen, 47, was one of them and spent 40 minutes queuing for immigration and customs clearance in the morning.
“The scanning [of the health code] is always the bottleneck when crossing the border to Shenzhen as only a few scanning machines are available. People pulled out their phones and were ready to scan QR codes but we just walked past,” Yeung said.
She said she was visiting Shenzhen with her British expatriate husband to enjoy cheaper spa treatments and food, despite the Hong Kong government recently rolling out a campaign to revive the sluggish nighttime economy by adding new attractions such as waterfront bazaars.
Shenzhen has also set its sights on boosting spending by visitors from Hong Kong and Macau, providing consumption vouchers and guides for various restaurants and leisure destinations.
KK Time, a new six-storey shopping centre that opened earlier this month in the Lo Wu area just across the border, offered 200 yuan (US$27) in shopping and catering coupons for Hong Kong and Macau residents.
About a dozen visitors queued at coupon counters at the shopping centre on Saturday afternoon. Among them was Chan Yuen-shan, 52, a Hong Kong housewife who came with her family, saying they were drawn to Shenzhen even without the discount offers.
“The mall here is huge and comfortable to walk around in with lots of small brands. We just want to spend our holiday quietly without bumping into people in Hong Kong’s shopping centres which mainly have chain stores,” Chan said.
The family of four planned to spend HK$5,000 (US$639) including accommodation over the long weekend.
Retired teacher Stanley Yuen, 62, who arrived in Shenzhen on Friday, said he wanted to enjoy a staycation with his wife and found the price of accommodation and food choices much cheaper than in Hong Kong.
“We booked the Futian Shangri-La in Shenzhen, which is a five-star hotel that is easily five times cheaper than in Hong Kong. We paid just 1,380 yuan per night,” Yuen said.
“Thanks to my wife who is familiar with Meitun, the rate is 300 yuan lower,” he said, referring to the Chinese on-demand food delivery service app that also takes bookings for certain hotels, attractions and other tourism-related businesses.
The couple planned to stay by the pool at the hotel on Saturday and had already booked a 90-minute spa treatment at 298 yuan per head. They also reserved a Chongqing hotpot meal for two on Sunday for 536 yuan through the app.
“We don’t need a guide for roaming around Shenzhen, as Hong Kong people are very familiar with this place and there are a lot of things to do at a cheaper price.”
Another Hongkonger, 28-year-old laboratory technician Patrick Chong Kai-leung, arrived at Futian via the Lok Ma Chau spur line with three friends on Friday to enjoy a dinner at Shuiwei night market.
After the group spent about 600 yuan on crayfish, Chinese mitten crabs and other seafood, they carried on munching street delicacies such as skewers, northeastern cold grill noodles, Tianjin-style jianbing or deep-fried dough stick rolls and stinky tofu.
“You can’t deny the fact that there are more food choices here and at such low prices. Although I want to support the night markets in Hong Kong, it’s kind of expensive and it doesn’t make sense that it closes due to the National Day fireworks. This decision pretty much kills the festive vibes,” Chong lamented.
He was referring to the carnival along the Wan Chai waterfront that would shut down from 5pm to 10.30pm on Sunday because of the fireworks show and crowd control arrangements, before reopening at 10.30pm after the fireworks and closing by 2am at the latest.
Chong and his friends planned to leave Shenzhen on Sunday after enjoying outdoor go-kart racing in Nanshan, which cost 338 yuan an hour for two people.
“There’s an indoor facility in Hong Kong but it charges on a six-minute session basis. Racing outdoors is way more exhilarating, especially with a bunch of friends during the long holiday.”
The Immigration Department figures show a total of 433,812 people left the city on Friday, including 338,560 Hong Kong residents.
Among those Hong Kong residents, 304,528 of them departed through various land and seaports, including 84,911 via the busiest Lo Wu checkpoint and 59,522 via Lok Ma Chau spur line.
The corresponding figures for Saturday have not yet been released.