Hongkongers receive first phase of consumption vouchers but restaurants offering fewer perks as social-distancing curbs bite
- Restaurants offering fewer promotions for this year’s scheme as they continue to be affected by stringent social-distancing curbs, says industry leader Simon Wong
- But Ray Chui, chairman of Institute of Dining Art, predicts catering sector will see business shoot up by 30 per cent in April
More than 6.3 million Hongkongers have received the first half of the government’s consumption vouchers worth HK$5,000 (US$638), but restaurants have offered fewer perks compared with last year’s scheme due to social-distancing curbs affecting dining establishments.
Major brands and retailers have offered promotions ahead of the scheme’s launch on Thursday, such as free gifts, spending coupons and discounts.
The spending vouchers totalling HK$10,000 per person are double last year’s amount. The latest scheme, which cost the government HK$66.4 billion, aims to boost sales for businesses affected by the fifth wave of infections in the city and is expected to boost the economy by 1.2 per cent.
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But restaurants offered fewer promotions to customers compared with last year’s scheme as they continued to be affected by stringent social-distancing curbs, according to Simon Wong Ka-wo, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades.
“We are concerned that people will use up their vouchers very soon, but we are hoping they will take into consideration that more offers [from the catering sector] will be available in the coming months,” he said.
City leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced earlier that harsh social-distancing restrictions would be eased in three phases over a period of three months starting on April 21, provided there was no rebound in cases.
The cap on groups in restaurants and most other establishments will be raised to eight people and dine-in services will be extended to midnight in the second phase.
Wong encouraged residents to save some of their vouchers for the dining sector once restrictions were eased.
Ray Chui Man-wai, chairman of catering industry body Institute of Dining Art, predicted that the catering sector would see business shoot up by 30 per cent this month, noting many restaurants had prepared to roll out an array of promotions to woo diners.
“After the social-distancing curbs are further relaxed on April 21, business rebound will be more obvious,” he said.
Chui, who serves as the chairman of Kam Kee Holdings which oversees 44 restaurants, said his group would offer food coupons with high values and a 10 per cent discount for those who chose to spend their digital vouchers at his restaurants.
“Many eateries will seize the chance to entice patrons with different promotional schemes,” he said. “For my group, apart from the 10 per cent discount, we offer food coupons valued at HK$1,150 with the use of only HK$1,000 worth of consumption vouchers. Our customers can use the food coupons within two years.”
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The four e-payment platforms disbursing the vouchers are Octopus, AlipayHK, Tap & Go and WeChat Pay HK. Alipay is operated by Ant Group, an affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding, which owns the South China Morning Post.
A representative of AlipayHK said on Wednesday that the company was working with online merchants, such as food delivery and e-commerce platforms offering discounts to encourage at-home purchases in an effort to minimise infection risks.
The payment platform had the biggest package of offers last year valued at HK$1.7 billion. As part of the offer, the company gave HK$5,000 in bonus vouchers to 10 users with the highest number of monthly transactions under the scheme.
Developers like Swire Properties have announced a collaboration with Octopus and will offer up to a total of HK$5 million in vouchers for customers at Cityplaza in Tai Koo, Pacific Place in Admiralty and Citygate Outlets in Tung Chung.
Sun Hung Kai Properties will also launch promotions in 12 of its major shopping malls. Members of The Point, a customer loyalty programme under the corporation, can receive up to HK$12,000 in gift certificates and prizes if they hit a minimum spending amount in places such as supermarkets and department stores.
Customers can also enjoy flash offers and up to 64 per cent in discounts for selected items in more than 60 retail outlets at Tsim Sha Tsui’s Harbour City, including at beauty, fashion, sports and jewellery shops.
The InterContinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong has also offered complimentary gifts for staycation bookings, such as HK$300 in minibar credits and bathroom amenities from Italian luxury goods brand Salvatore Ferragamo.
Eligible residents using AlipayHK, Tap & Go or WeChat Pay HK as their designated digital payment platform for the handout will receive the first HK$5,000 in one instalment.
Residents who opted to receive the voucher through their Octopus cards will receive two batches of HK$4,000 and HK$1,000 due to a stored value limit on the cards. The second instalment will be disbursed as early as June 16.
Resident Justin Lo, 26, said he would use his consumption voucher to buy an Apple gift card for a new iPhone.
Lo added that he believed promotions offered by businesses during the previous voucher scheme “sounded like scams” as regular prices had been marked up.
“I guess it’s because they thought customers won’t mind the price as [they are] paying by vouchers. But this time [I haven’t seen] prices marked up yet,” the freelancer said.
The previous round of digital coupons cost the government HK$36 billion and boosted growth by at least 0.7 per cent.
Last year, some 70 per cent of 6.3 million eligible residents chose Octopus to receive the e-vouchers, while 20 per cent opted for AlipayHK, with the remaining beneficiaries choosing either Tap & Go or WeChat Pay HK.
Additional reporting by Cannix Yau
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