Mainland Chinese Big Spenders Return to Hong Kong

Several Hong Kong industries, ranging from banking to divination, have seen an increase in sales due to the return of affluent customers from mainland China following a three-year slump caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, business representatives from various sectors have acknowledged that it will take more time to fully recover, despite the resumption of normal travel on February 6. In February, over 1.1 million mainland visitors arrived in Hong Kong, a significant increase from the previous month’s 280,525.

HSBC’s head of distribution, wealth, and personal banking in Hong Kong, Janet Pang, stated that the bank’s daily average number of counter transactions by mainland clients doubled in February compared to the previous month. Pang also noted a significant increase in the number of face-to-face meetings and transactions with relationship managers, alongside a doubling of hotline inquiries regarding account openings for the same period. According to an internal survey by the bank, approximately 60% of mainlanders who intended to visit Hong Kong after the border reopening identified personal banking and wealth management services as their primary reason for travel.

Sally Liu, deputy general manager of Bank of China’s personal banking and wealth management department in Hong Kong, reported that the average daily number of cross-border clients who opened an account had reached 80% of pre-pandemic levels after the border reopened.

Standard Chartered has observed an increased interest in insurance products from clients located in the northern part of the region. The bank has reported that the purchase of bancassurance products by mainland customers in February has already returned to pre-Covid levels.

Furthermore, property companies have also seen a surge in business with Centaline Property Agency’s co-founder, Shih Wing-ching, reporting a profit of 10 percent in February. This is the first time the company has recorded a profit in 10 months, with sales jumping by 40 percent compared to the previous month. This increase in sales can be attributed to a rise in the number of mainland homebuyers and investor confidence.

According to statistics released by Centaline, transactions in the property market increased by 34.8 percent month over month to 5,969 deals. The total value of these transactions also surged by 35.1 percent month over month to HK$43.9 billion (US$5.59 billion), the highest since August 2022. Shih mentioned that mainland clients now account for 10 percent of homebuyers in the city, compared to only 1 to 2 percent last year.

Feng shui master, Yuen Yu-fu, has reported an increase in his business of more than 50 percent after the return of mainland clients. His clients include tycoon Lee Shau-kee of Henderson Land Development and former first lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos. Yuen charges between tens of thousands of Hong Kong dollars and more than HK$1 million, depending on the type and duration of the service.

Trinity Medical Centre, a medical service provider, has also seen an increase in inquiries and bookings from mainland customers. While business has increased, it has not yet been able to catch up to the level before the pandemic. Mainland patients mostly use the center for health checks and vaccinations as they have more confidence in Hong Kong’s medical services than what is available back home.

Lastly, the beauty and fitness sector has rebounded to 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels. According to Beauty and Fitness Professional General Union chairwoman, Amy Hui Wai-Fung, mainlanders like to come to Hong Kong for beauty treatments because the region provides a variety of hi-tech beauty equipment for patrons.

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