It’s Saturday and we’re in the office, but there’s a reason for our diligence — tomorrow is the start of the Chinese New Year holiday — and that means I’m hopping a plane to Guangzhou and trading my desk for the dinner table.
Food is a big component of Chinese New Year as anyone whose gone through the festivities here will tell you. An endless supply of Cantonese dishes awaits me along with three or four large family gatherings. Usually these dinners are held at the home of my girlfriend’s relatives–going out is just too expensive. New Year’s dinners are a good way for restaurants and hotels to make up the revenue they may have lost from lack of business travel during the period.
But things seem to be different this year. Even the Chinese New Year dinner is not exempt from the global financial crisis. Top hotels which charged thousands of dollars for a family feast last year are now dropping the price to just a few hundred. Still a lot for a dinner, mind you, but a reflection that people are spending less this year.
One of the economic numbers I’ll be pondering during the holiday is retail sales figures. These tend to be high over the holiday. Things are on sale and people want to go out and spend their hongbao and company bonus. But this year I think things will be different. Most companies aren’t giving new year bonuses, for one. Unpaid leave, on the other hand, seems to be a popular trend.
Despite these factors, the numbers might not see a significant drop (people still need to splurge even during a recession), but don’t expect a huge jump like years before. Instead of college students running out to spend money on the latest fashion trend or new CD, expect them to put the money away in case they can’t get that dream job come graduation.