Hong Kong’s historic flea market, Temple Street, is to be “revitalised” into a market with food stalls and performances in November, a representative of the market’s hawkers has said.
Located in Yau Ma Tei, the market attracted hundreds of hawkers in the 1960s, becoming famous for cheap merchandise, street food, as well as stalls for fortune-telling. However, business has declined over recent years under the city’s strict Covid-19 restrictions. It has yet to recover since the pandemic rules were lifted early this year.
“We hope to develop it with reference to Taiwan’s Silin Night Market, ” Raymond Chan, a pro-establishment politician and chair of the Yau Ma Tei Temple Street Association of Hawkers, told RTHK on Monday in Cantonese.
Chan said that, while there used to be around 200 hawkers, currently only around 100 are actively running. He told HK01 in August that he had never seen the streets of Yau Ma Tei, Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui so quiet.
To boost business around Temple Street, the association plans to set up 30 street food stalls for a night market: “12 stalls will be operated by existing restaurants on Temple Street, and the rest are from restaurants in nearby streets, ” Chan said.
Amid a weak growth outlook and a slower-than-hoped tourism recovery, the government launched a “Hong Kong Night Vibes” campaign to boost the night-time economy last month. The campaign involved a series of night markets along the city’s harbourfronts at Kennedy Town, Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui during holidays and weekends.
Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism of Hong Kong Kevin Yeung told TVB on Sunday that the area would be “revitalised” in November with street stalls and performances, but it should also take into account of the needs of residents as there were residential buildings surrounding the thoroughfare.
Chan said that the association hoped to host the night market until 11pm each night: “Our staff will patrol at 10pm everyday and ask tourists and diners to lower their voices as not to interfere with people living upstairs,” Chan said.
HKFP has reached out to the Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau for more details.
However, Luk Hing Fat, another representative for hawkers, told Commercial Radio in September that he believed the plan would not help rejuvenate the tourist hotspot, as it is hard to attract many tourists by simply putting on street food stalls.
Luk, chair of the Temple Street Association of Commerce, said that the market declined because it did not renovate its business model and kept selling goods from mainland China. Another factor, he added, was the decreasing number of tourists: “There are few tourists from Europe and the US. Few visited [Temple Street].”
“Temple Street is a famous night-time attraction in Hong Kong,” a Hong Kong Tourism Board spokesperson told HKFP on Tuesday in an emailed response. “The Hong Kong Tourism Board is discussing with related trade associations and government departments to make plans to enhance the overall vibe of Temple Street. Details will be announced in due course.”
As one of the city’s pillar industries, the tourism sector has seen a slow recovery since the pandemic, with mainland Chinese arrivals picking up faster than international travellers.
In August, Hong Kong welcomed 4.07 million visitors, up 14 per cent from the previous month, according to provisional data from the Tourism Board. In August 2018, the city saw nearly 6 million visitors. Even during the height of the pro-democracy protests and unrest in August 2019, the city welcomed 3.59 million arrivals.
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