Night Vibes Hong Kong, or Night Jibes Hong Kong?

The Night Vibes Hong Kong campaign (“Night Vibes”) was unveiled by Financial Secretary Paul Chan on Sept. 14, aiming to boost the post-COVID night-time economy. It strives to attract citizens and tourists of all age groups and sectors to “go out and revitalise the city’s nightlife.”

An image of a butterfly lantern display at Victoria Park during the Mid-Autumn Festival Lantern Display. (Source: Catherine Chan)

The campaign is composed of various events including, but not limited to: waterfront performances, night bazaars, outdoor displays, guided tours, dining coupons and other promotions. It is set to run from late September 2023 until early 2024. 

Night Vibes gained mixed reactions from citizens both online and in-person. 

Several top posts on LIHKG for “香港夜繽紛”, the Chinese name of the campaign, appeared to make fun of it, with one post ridiculing the logo design for being “childish”. A separate post mocked the campaign, saying that “I (they) think Night Vibes Hong Kong will be a success,” while other users replied with similar jests. 

One viral LIHKG post included a picture of what appears to be a food stall at the Avenue of Stars night bazaars, selling four pieces of siu mai for 20 Hong Kong dollars – expensive for the average street food stall in Hong Kong. The user who posted the image sarcastically captioned the image with: “I love Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s night market is the best in the world.” 

An image of a street food stall selling three types of siu mai taken at the Avenue of Stars and uploaded by user “麥當勞叔叔” (Translation: Uncle McDonald) on September 25, 2023. (Source: LIHKG)

Despite the negative online feedback, turnout at the night bazaars were high, with queues spanning from 30 minutes to 1 hour.  

Mrs Wong, a 41-year-old housewife at the Wan Chai Waterfront Carnival with her two young children, said the 90s movies played were a “special touch” that reminded her of the “good old days.” 

On the other hand, Owen, a 21-year-old university student with his family, said the booths were not “special enough” and gave the bazaar a rating of 5 out of 10. He added that “the main reason I am here is because of my family. None of my friends want to go.” When asked about the effectiveness of Night Vibes, he said: “I think a long-term policy needs to be designed to boost the economy instead. People will lose interest in night bazaars if you keep doing them.” 

An image of a neon sign reading “Waterfront Carnival” in English and Chinese. (Source: Catherine Chan)

This indicates a failure on the government’s part in addressing the roots of the economic crisis. This includes the prevailing high cost of living, inflation and stagnant wages, which were intensified by pandemic restrictions.  

Stringent pandemic controls over the past three years have severely hampered Hong Kong’s economy. As a result of COVID-19, consumers have changed their spending habits and focused more on purchasing essential products, such as groceries. A survey conducted by KPMG during the first and second wave of COVID-19 found that on average, 41 percent of respondents in Hong Kong said that they were being more selective in their purchases. 

While citizens have now become more optimistic with the lifting of all COVID-19 restrictions in early 2023, other concerns such as inflation have become more pressing. According to Trading Economics, the annual inflation rates stood at 1.8% in August 2023 compared to 0.25% in 2020. 

Moreover, the tourism industry, which has traditionally played a large part in Hong Kong’s economy, has been hit directly by the pandemic and remains stagnant.  

The rise of Xiaohongshu, a Chinese social media app in 2021 and 2022, has brought a new wave of tourists to Hong Kong. “They are not just looking to shop luxury products but are seeking experiences unique to Hong Kong,” said hotel and tourism student Peter. “However, this has been massively quelled by authorities.” 

These include unlicensed dai pai dongs, local restaurants, and iconic but unauthorised neon signs. These prominent symbols in Hong Kong are quickly disappearing due to stringent rules, lack of negotiation and cooperation between authorities and other parties involved.

An image of a dai pai dong in Mong Kok, Hong Kong (Source: @jazzdrawsthings (Instagram))

Night Vibes is not the first of campaigns in Hong Kong this year designed to boost its lagging economy. Other campaigns include Happy Hong Kong, which ran from late April and notably, organised a discounted cinema ticket day, as well as Hello Hong Kong, which distributed 500,000 free airplane tickets to Hong Kong for overseas travellers. They have all drawn criticism from some, for merely “throwing money at the problem.” 

There are deep seated issues in Hong Kong that cannot be solved via a simple campaign. While several sectors from society are beginning to address them, the government has yet to take constructive action. 

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