Asia Economy

Easing of social distancing measures is good news for bars and restaurants, says Hong Kong tycoon

Key Points
  • The easing of social distancing measures is good news for bars and restaurants in Hong Kong, and will be a "game changer" for the upcoming Mother's Day weekend, according to prominent Hong Kong business leader Allan Zeman.
  • Months of virus restrictions have exacerbated a recession in Hong Kong, with data released earlier this week showing a 8.9% fall in first quarter GDP as well as a plunge in retail sales by 42% year-on-year for the month of March. 
  • Zeman expressed confidence that Hong Kong's economy will "bounce back quicker than anywhere else," with the hope that many tourists will return once the border with China is opened. 
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Virus crisis had 'devastating' impact on Hong Kong's Q1 GDP: Lan Kwai Fong chairman

The easing of social distancing measures is good news for bars and restaurants in Hong Kong, and will be a "game changer" for the upcoming Mother's Day weekend, according to prominent Hong Kong business leader Allan Zeman.

Bars would have to observe precautions implemented by restaurants that have worked and allowed restaurants to now have up to 8 people sitting at a table, said Zeman, the chairman of property developer Lan Kwai Fong Group.  

Bookings have started streaming in and have gone up dramatically since Tuesday's announcement of the lifting of certain social distancing measures that were originally implemented to fight Covid-19, Zeman told CNBC's "Street Signs Asia" on Wednesday.

The "spike" in business could be attributed to people feeling much more comfortable, even while "still wearing the masks," Zeman, who's also the Chairman of Wynn Macau, said. 

Zeman, who has lived in the city for more than four decades, pushed for the development of his group's eponymous nightlife and entertainment district.

Dining and entertainment venues have been hit particularly hard by social distancing measures as people stay indoors instead of flocking to restaurants, bars and cinemas. The value of restaurant receipts in Hong Kong fell by 31.2% on-year in the first quarter of 2020, according to data released earlier this week.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong announced plans to relax social distancing measures — including the reopening of venues such as cinemas, bars, beauty parlors, and schools — with the easing coming into effect on May 8. 

This comes on the back of 16 straight days of zero local coronavirus cases in Hong Kong, Chief Executive Carrie Lam noted in Tuesday's press conference.

Transparent barriers enforcing social distancing measures are seen on tables at a restaurant in Hong Kong, on Tuesday, April 21, 2020.
Roy Liu | Bloomberg via Getty Images

The territory currently has 1,040 confirmed coronavirus infections and 4 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Months of virus restrictions have exacerbated a recession in Hong Kong, with data released earlier this week showing a 8.9% fall in first quarter GDP as well as a plunge in retail sales by 42% year-on-year for the month of March

"Unfortunately a lot of Hong Kong's businesses rely on tourism especially from mainland China, and that has been non-existent at the moment," he said. 

Hoping for tourists

While millions of Chinese nationals have traveled extensively around the world in the past, they can't really go anywhere at the moment except Hong Kong if the border is reopened, Zeman noted.

This influx of tourists would be "very welcome for most retailers," especially given high Hong Kong property rents that make it impossible to survive without tourists, he added.  

Zeman was confident that the Hong Kong economy will "bounce back quicker than anywhere else," with the hope that many tourists will return once the border reopens.