Catering group chief urges SMEs to grasp GBA opportunities

2023-06-01 03:31     Comment:1

‘If we want to survive, we must change’

Interview by Yuki Lei

        Commenting on the policy of allowing private cars from Macau to enter and leave the mainland via the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB) border checkpoint, Macau Catering Industry Association President Aeson Lei Ian Leong has told The Macau Post Daily in an interview that while the measure did indeed impact Macau’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) it also created an opportunity for them to seek “new possibilities” in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area (GBA).

Lei made the remarks in his office late last week.

Aiming to further facilitate transport between Macau and Guangdong, since the beginning of this year Macau cars that have been issued special licences by the mainland authorities in conjunction with their local counterpart have been able to enter Guangdong via the HZMB border checkpoint after making an appointment each time.

According to the Transport Bureau’s (DSAT) website, the number of appointments for local cars to enter the mainland each day has increased from about 600 at the beginning of January to 2,000 right now.

In general, according to Lei, consumer spending in Macau’s various neighbourhoods has dropped by up to 30 percent during weekends.

Many local residents like to consume in Zhuhai, where they can enjoy services that are cheaper than in Macau, such as dining out, Lei said, pointing out that the phenomenon could be observed even before the COVID-19 pandemic started to hit Macau in early 2020.

With the combined effect of the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions in both Macau and the mainland and the implementation of the cross-border measure enabling local cars to enter Guangdong province, Lei said, local middle-class residents who can apply to drive their Macau vehicle in the mainland will also spend on “life’s extras” in Guangdong province, such as getting a facial, manicure or car valeting, or filling up their vehicle’s tank.

The increasing number of street parking spaces available in local neighbourhoods at weekends shows the drop in the number of vehicles on the city’s roads on Saturdays and Sundays, according to Lei.

Lei said: “Many of our members initially thought that once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, there will be a dawn [more businesses] for them, and that some of them could repay the loans they owed the banks during the three-year pandemic”, adding that their current income was still not able to cover their outgoings.

On the other hand, Lei said, the measure enabling locals to drive their cars in Guangdong can accelerate the integration of local SMEs elsewhere in the GBA, such as Zhuhai, adding that the local catering sector should seek opportunities outside the current market by making good use of Macau’s “business card” as a City of Gastronomy granted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to develop their business in the mainland.

The further growth in local catering is limited in Macau due to its small size of just 33 square kilometres, Lei said, adding he believed that Macau’s integration into the mainland’s GBA cities could accelerate the development of local catering firms as their businesses will no longer be affected by Macau’s geographical constraints.

According to Lei, his association has already organised different activities such as food festivals outside Macau, in conjunction with the mainland’s government entities and catering associations, through which the participating SMEs can weigh up their options, i.e., whether it’s worth for them to start their business in the nine mainland GBA cities – Dongguan, Foshan, Guangzhou, Huizhou, Jiangmen, Shenzhen, Zhaoqing, Zhongshan and Zhuhai.

Lei said: “If we [catering SMEs] want to survive, we must change”. 

Macau Catering Industry Association President Aeson Lei Ian Leong poses after Saturday’s interview with The Macau Post Daily at his office in Zape. – Photo: Yuki Lei

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