With COVID-19 travel restrictions now lifted, Greater Bay Area (GBA) tourists are ready to return to Hong Kong and start shopping again, according to a new survey by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company entitled, “The Return of the Greater Bay Area Traveler to Hong Kong.”
In February 2023, McKinsey surveyed 1,155 Mainland travelers from the Greater Bay Area who expressed interest in visiting Hong Kong 12 months after the re-opening of the border in January. In addition to retail, the survey also asked travelers about financial services and healthcare services.
While the survey results should give companies in Hong Kong reason to be optimistic about the return of GBA tourists, McKinsey cautions that Hong Kong could lose its sought-after role as a shopping, financial services, and healthcare hub as neighboring cities catch up quickly. Hong Kong firms will need to improve service quality, deliver better digital experiences, and better connect with the rest of the Greater Bay Area, in order to continue wooing shoppers, says McKinsey.
Key findings from the survey include:
- GBA travelers’ interest in shopping and sightseeing remains strong: one-third of surveyed participants plan to visit Hong Kong in the next 12 months, with 85 percent of respondents citing shopping and sightseeing as the main purpose for their next trip
- Average spending is expected to reach 36,400 RMB per GBA traveler, with the majority of spending on luxury goods, at around 17,800 RMB per traveler
- However, around 10-15 percent of consumers will spend less in Hong Kong in the next three years. They will instead choose Hainan or Macau for luxury shopping, and “daigou” for cosmetics, health supplements, and infant formula.
- Access to the latest trends (61 percent), better product safety (60 percent), and higher quality products (59 percent) are the top three advantages of shopping in Hong Kong among GBA respondents.
- Hong Kong’s main advantages are anchored around products, such as access to the latest trends, better product safety, and higher quality products. Service quality and digital experience are falling behind.
- Having a pan-GBA presence is helpful – 45 percent of consumers are more likely to buy from a Hong Kong brand that has GBA branches.
- Body checks (52 percent) and vaccination (31 percent) are the top two healthcare services GBA travelers said they plan to purchase during their next visit to Hong Kong. Consumers are also interested in specialized medical services, such as dental (19 percent), Obstetrics and gynecology (18 percent), and ophthalmology (14 percent)
- Access to treatments not available in Mainland China was cited as the top reason for GBA travelers (78 percent) to travel to Hong Kong for medical services.
- 23 percent of GBA women plan to purchase medical aesthetic services in Hong Kong. Non-plastic surgery injections was cited as the biggest treatment type GBA travelers intend to purchase (79 percent).
- Opinions are more divergent on Hong Kong’s role as a financial center. Social stability and reputation of financial services see clear improvement. Regulatory system, customer privacy, and safe investment / business environment are more mixed.
- 78 percent of respondents said they invest in Hong Kong to earn higher returns than on the Mainland; 78 percent say they are looking for more stable returns than on the Mainland.
- 61 percent of respondents said an attractive interest rate on savings accounts, and 51 percent cited low management and transaction fees were the top reasons for selecting a financial institution in Hong Kong.
- Only 16 percent cited the quality of financial advisors, and only 6 percent cited a good online experience, as the top reasons.
“While Hong Kong continues to enjoy several advantages as a shopping destination for Greater Bay Area travelers, Hong Kong has fallen behind in a few critical areas such as digital experience and service quality,” says Arthur Shek, managing partner of McKinsey’s Hong Kong office.
“Mainland travelers are increasingly accustomed to a seamless omnichannel shopping experience. Hong Kong retailers that hope to continue to attract business from Mainland shoppers should rethink the way they engage with them through digital channels and improve service quality.”
“Retailers should think holistically about Hong Kong and GBA,” suggests Enoch Chan, a partner in Hong Kong. “This holistic approach extends to the way retailers are organized and manage their business. Rather than setting up entirely separate business units that don’t communicate with each other, Hong Kong companies need to establish an integrated organization that is geared toward understanding and serving GBA customers.”
“Hong Kong healthcare providers are preferred by GBA consumers for medical treatments that are not yet accessible in mainland China. But with the relaxation of regulations and the opening of the mainland market, Hong Kong healthcare providers need to rethink their value proposition to capture growth in demand for healthcare services from GBA consumers,” says Beijing-based partner Jason Peng.
Associate partner Jady Ye believes that “Hong Kong firms need to gain a better understanding of Mainland China tourists’ needs. Perceptions of Hong Kong have changed in the past few years, and can be shaped through proactive marketing and branding efforts. Now is the time to step up investment on these fronts.”