Shanghai Disneyland reopened its doors last Monday, becoming the first Walt Disney Co. theme park in the world to resume operation after the COVID-19 closure.
The reopening of the park is an encouraging signal that China has embarked on a steady road to restoring normalcy in daily life, business activities and consumption boosting. According to media reports, facilities adjacent to the park, including Disneytown, a shopping, dining and entertainment complex, and some other theme parks in China have also been put into operation recently.
Domestic consumption plays a key role in China's economic recovery and growth, especially as the country's foreign trade is facing great downward pressure. However, consumption rebound is surely not an easy target for China to achieve. A recent online poll found that more than half of the Chinese families surveyed plan to increase their savings and reduce consumption even when the contagion is fully under control in China. Under these circumstances, if the government does not take proactive policies to boost consumption, the general public will become more fiscally conservative, more cautious and even more aware of risks in the future as part of their response to the fiscal impact of the pandemic.
An important tool of consumption stimulation is to maintain a high employment rate, especially retaining jobs for low-income earners. Low-income earners mainly include freelancers and those who work for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in the country. Job retaining will not only ensure their incomes, but also increase their willingness to expend a certain amount of money in daily life.
To beef up consumption, many local governments across the country are issuing vouchers in targeted industries. Vouchers are restricted to cover only a small portion of consumption expenditure such as online shopping and food deliveries. For example, with strict social distancing measures in place to halt the spread of the pandemic, dine-in services at restaurants have greatly dwindled; however, the demand for food deliveries has recently soared. But sometimes consumers have to pay additional fees much more than the value of vouchers' face value to redeem them. Since cash is essential for the elderly and low-income families, in addition to vouchers, the provision of cash to consumers should also be considered at the same time.
Domestic demands for home improvement and buying new cars had been thriving before such demands were suppressed by the pandemic in the past months. Local governments should think of applying moderate stimulus measures to real estate, automobile, home appliances and other industries by taking measures such as lowering down payments for first-time homebuyers, giving subsidies for new energy vehicles and offering more license plates for gasoline-fueled cars in some big cities.
Taking advantage of emerging technologies is a good way to stimulate offline purchases. Brick-and-mortar stores have revolutionized sales with the support of digital resources. Video sharing platforms such as Bilibili have helped rejuvenate traditional business sectors. Through state-of-the-art technologies such as AR, VR, 5G and other live-streaming marketing tools, some local governments are also utilizing a series of online-to-offline marketing campaigns to help businesses promote their specialties to successfully unleash pent-up consumer demand.
The travel industry is also an important element for boosting consumption. Requiring self-protection measures has made long-distance travel more difficult. However, short-distance tours within a province, at least touring around a city, are especially welcomed by travelers because of less expenditure, greater control over cleanliness, the flexibility of time schedule and privacy. Meanwhile, special offers from hotels, airlines and travel agencies will also stimulate consumers' wanderlust.
(The author is editor-in-chief of Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)