China tourist influx a boon for eateries

Thursday, August 15, 2013

 Locals and tourists alike enjoy Kuching laksa and claypot chicken rice at Kedai Kopi Yee Fung.

Sin Kee Bah Kut Teh workers making preparations before the dinner rush hour.

KOTA KINABALU: The influx of Chinese tourists to the state has brought about roaring business for eateries here, especially shops that serve local food.

Come lunch or dinner time, locals and tourists alike would swarm eateries such as Kedai Kopi Yee Fung, Sin Kee Bah Kut Teh, Yu Kee Bak Kut Teh, and Five Star Hainanese Chicken Rice and BBQ Pork, and feast on bowls of aromatic laksa, devour pork belly, ribs or intestine from fragrant bak kut teh soup, or simply demolish plates of chicken rice.

Some eateries claim that Chinese tourists make up between 30 to 50 per cent of their customer base, a figure that shows the increasing significance of tourists to local businesses.

Preliminary statistics has shown that tourist arrivals from China and Hong Kong has increased by nearly 88 per cent in the first six months of this year, compared to the same period last year, said the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun recently.

Cheng Chew Wang, owner of Kedai Kopi Yee Fung on Gaya Street, said his business has gone up by 20 per cent since April this year, a phenomenon that has intrigued him as tourist arrivals usually peaked in July and August.

Cheng said tourists from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong made up almost 50 per cent of his customers. The Chinese tourists have taken a liking for his Kuching laksa, claypot chicken rice and beef noodle soup because the food suit their taste buds, Cheng said.

Meanwhile, Ivan Chia of Sin Kee Bak Kut Teh at Jalan Pantai said, the shop’s customer base comprised of 50 percent locals, 20 percent regular customers and 30 per cent tourists. Western tourists, he said, made up less than 0.5 percent of his customers.

Bah Kut Teh has proven to be a very popular cuisine among Chinese tourists, especially those from China, who make up 80 percent of the Chinese tourists that patronise Sin Kee, followed by 15 to 18 percent Hong Kong Chinese and two percent Taiwanese, he said.

Chia said most of the Chinese tourists were walk-in customers or recommended by websites, adding that Sin Kee did not do any marketing or promotions.

The reason why the Chinese tourists like Bah Kut Teh was the flavour and taste which satisfy their taste buds, he said, so much so that some tourists would return to have Bah Kut Teh several times during their vacation here, he said.

“They come here and want to try and taste new things. They don’t have laksa and Hainanese chicken rice there (in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), so when they come here, they want to try them out,” he said.

Sin Kee Bah Kut Teh pre-packed soup sachets, complete with instructions for homemade Bah kut Teh, are also popular among Taiwan and Hong Kong tourists.

“The China tourists don’t like to cook for themselves. The tourists who buy in bulk are mainly from Hong Kong and Taiwan,” according to Chia.

Sin Kee Bah Kut Teh was established 15 years ago and is open from 4pm to 11pm. Chia added that tourist arrivals usually peak in June, July and August, and the number of tourists will decline come September.

Goh Wei Seng, a staff of Five Star Hainanese Chicken Rice and BBQ Pork, which has four outlets, which are located at Gaya Street, Wisma Merdeka, City Mall and Centre Point Sabah, also say that many Chinese tourists come to the shop for their food. TheBorneoPost


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