After three years, we can finally come back to Shenzhen for a reunion dinner. Mr. Wu, who is from Hong Kong, had an early reunion dinner with his family at a Cantonese restaurant in Shenzhen four days before New Year’s Eve (February 5). He told Lianhe Zaobao that having a reunion dinner at a Shenzhen restaurant has always been a family tradition, but this tradition was broken due to the coronavirus epidemic.
Mr. Wu and his family are very happy to be able to go north to Shenzhen with their family for a reunion dinner again. They were full of praise for their dining experience in Shenzhen and believed that compared with Hong Kong, Shenzhen restaurants are cost-effective, with delicious food and good service environment.
He rubbed his full belly and smiled: “We used Meituan coupons to order two set meals, and also added two extra dishes and a fish. A total of 11 people ate more than 10 dishes and only spent 1,400 yuan. (RMB, the same below, S$265).”
Mr. Wu said that such a sumptuous meal is estimated to be three to four times more expensive in Hong Kong, and the dining time is also restricted, which “makes it very uncomfortable to eat.” He said: “After we have eaten, we have to sing in KTV and go to the flower market in Shenzhen to feel the New Year atmosphere here.”
The reunion dinner, also known as the New Year’s Eve dinner, is one of the most important traditional customs for Chinese families during the Lunar New Year. Many restaurants and restaurants in Shenzhen have begun to receive customers who choose to eat out for reunion dinners in the week before the Lunar New Year, including many Hong Kong families who have crossed the border and traveled north.
When our reporter visited a number of restaurants near the Futian Station of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Express Rail Link, he found that a considerable number of diners are Hong Kong families like Mr. Wu who pursue higher value for money and a more pleasant dining experience.
Zhu Huilan, the manager of the Cantonese restaurant “Cantonese Cuisine Palace”, said in an interview that about 40% of the restaurant’s usual customers are from Hong Kong, and about 10% of the customers on New Year’s Eve had tables reserved by Hong Kong families.
She said: “Most of them choose to come early for the reunion dinner, or come during lunch time. This way they don’t need to catch the last high-speed train back to Hong Kong, and can still take a walk in Shenzhen after eating.”
To facilitate travel between the two places during the festival, the Shenzhen Bay Port will operate 24 hours a day from New Year’s Eve to the fourth day of the Lunar New Year; the Luohu Port will be open until 2 a.m. on New Year’s Eve and the second day of the Lunar New Year (February 9 and 11). After extending the port clearance time, more Hong Kong people are expected to go to Shenzhen for a reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve.
During the New Year, many restaurants, in order to bring out the festive atmosphere, launch New Year’s Eve dinner set meals with auspicious dish names based on the original menu, and incorporate elements of the Year of the Dragon, such as “Lucky Dragon” and “Dragon Traveling Around the World“. The prices of these packages are higher than usual, with packages for 10 people generally ranging from 4,000 yuan to 10,000 yuan.
Kapok, a restaurant that specializes in new-style Cantonese cuisine and is obsessed with Cantonese cuisine, has 30% of its diners from Hong Kong. According to store manager Zhu Minfeng’s observation, Hong Kong customers are more cautious when dining in Shenzhen and pay great attention to cost-effectiveness.
He said: “Even during the New Year period, they usually order a la carte or use coupons, and will not order the New Year’s Eve dinner set meal. They are not like mainland customers who like to dine in private rooms, because we usually charge an extra 10% cost of.”
Since mainland China resumed full customs clearance with Hong Kong in February last year, there has been a lot of news about Hong Kong tourists flocking north to spend money. According to the latest data from the Hong Kong Immigration Department, as of December 30, 2023, Hong Kong residents had entered mainland China 53.34 million times throughout the year, of which more than 40 million people exited through the Shenzhen-Hong Kong port.
This consumer boom continues to be strong ahead of the Lunar New Year. In addition to the catering industry, Shenzhen’s supermarkets and agricultural wholesale markets also attract a large number of Hong Kong people shopping for New Year’s goods, and the word “Haoping” (Cantonese, meaning so cheap) is inseparable from their words.
Ms. Mai, who came from Hong Kong to Shenzhen Futian Agricultural Wholesale Market to buy dry goods, said: “I come here to buy sea cucumbers, scallops, fish maws, etc. to prepare Poon Choi for the New Year. This is a wholesale center, and the prices are about 30% cheaper than in Hong Kong. And you can choose from many stores, so it’s very easy to shop.”
Shenzhen is the third largest economic city in mainland China, with its economic aggregate following Shanghai and Beijing every year. However, consumption has always been considered a shortcoming of Shenzhen’s economy. Shenzhen’s total retail sales of consumer goods in 2022 will be 970.8 billion yuan, making it the only first-tier city that has not entered the “consumption trillion club”.
In an environment of economic downturn and weak consumer demand, Shenzhen’s total retail sales of consumer goods unexpectedly exceeded one trillion yuan in 2023, reaching 1.0486 trillion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 7.8%. Many analysts point out that Hong Kong people’s contribution is indispensable for Shenzhen’s inclusion in the “trillion-dollar consumer club”.
Hong Kong’s retail industry has suffered a huge impact as Hong Kong people go north to consume. There are reports that Hong Kong is planning to discuss with the mainland the restoration of “one visa, multiple lines” for residents registered in Shenzhen, so as to facilitate Shenzhen citizens to increase the frequency of consumption in Hong Kong and boost Hong Kong’s economy.