Even before the rumors around the opening of the Wenheyou Shenzhen circulated on social media, some of my friends said on WeChat Moments that they were excited and couldn't wait.
When the Changsha-based super dining complex, dubbed the Disney of the catering sector, officially opened its long-expected Shenzhen version April 2, it became an instant sensation. During the first few days of its opening, tens of thousands of people were seen lining up along the banks of the Buji River, Luohu District, where Wenheyou Shenzhen is located. According to Tencent News, at 6:40 p.m. April 2, more than 50,000 people jammed the "Shenzhen Wenheyou" official WeChat account waiting to get a table.
Among those frenzied visitors, quite a lot were drawn to get a taste of Chayanyuese, a bubble tea brand also from Changsha, which made its Shenzhen debut with its pop-up shop in Wenheyou for three months.
In my opinion, as one of the three Wenheyou outlets in the country and the largest (the other two are in Changsha and Guangzhou), Wenheyou Shenzhen arrived just in time as Shenzhen was on the fast track to revive its tourist industry in the post-pandemic era and the arrival could further boost local tourism together with other newly opened attractions such as the Bay Glory Ferris Wheel in Bao'an District.
With an area of about 20,000 square meters, Wenheyou Shenzhen uses distinctive retro-style furnishings and decor to create an imersive experience of urban culture dating back to the 1980s and 1990s, triggering customers’ memories of the good and simple old days, which matches Shenzhen's young demographics. The official statistics show that by the end of 2019, Shenzhen had registered a permanent population of 13.4388 million, and their average age was 33 years old, who were born in the late 1980s.
According to a report on China's tourist industry in 2020 released on chinabaogao.com, an increasing number of tourists come from young age groups and these young consumers prefer experiential and interactive purchasing for pleasure. Wenheyou Shenzhen is their cup of tea. When I visited the dining and shopping complex on May 5, I was immediately intrigued by the dynamic and happy vibes on young faces while they were shopping, enjoying delicacies and taking photos of the neon-lit streets and alleys in the complex.
Wenheyou Shenzhen may also help push forward the growth of Shenzhen's night-time economy. According to Xinhua News Agency, the "night-time economy" is occupying an increasing proportion of the urban GDP. Shenzhen has rolled out a range of measures to strengthen its night-time economy over the past years, including presenting light shows, shopping festivals and building a demonstration street, Dongmen Pedestrian Street in Luohu District. As it is in Dongmen, Wenhenyou Shenzhen closes at midnight on regular days, and during the May Day holiday, it stayed open until 1 a.m. Shenzhen, a young and vibrant city, has strong potential for night-time consumption as summer time is longer here and young people tend to work late.
Some people joked that when viewed as a tourist destination, Shenzhen is in an awkward position squeezed between its two neighboring cities, claiming that "when it comes to shopping, you should go to Hong Kong; if you crave delicious food, Guangzhou is the choice." With the opening of Wenheyou Shenzhen, there might be a different story. It is a one-stop tourist attraction gathering 60 catering brands which provide delicacies from places including Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Macao, the Chaoshan area, Shunde and Hunan. It also features a beauty store selling a wide selection of cosmetics and skincare products and even presents a stage play.
Despite its instant popularity, Wenheyou Shenzhen has much room for improvement. First and foremost, it's the problem of long queues. The reason why I enjoyed my visit is largely because I didn't queue up. If people need to wait in line for hours in order to get into a place, it loses much of its appeal, even if it's the real Disney. Wenheyou Shenzhen could adopt an appointment system that sets a maximum number of guests during peak hours to ensure reception capacity and quality of service. Secondly, it's about safety. When visitors' eyes are all on the beautiful environment to capture the best pictures, they may not watch their steps carefully when taking the stairs, which will be more dangerous in the dimmed-light environment. Wenheyou Shenzhen could put more warning signs and enforce protection on the stairs and railings. Last but not least, it's sanitation. Although the old and retro-style environment is forgivable for its flaws, it is not an excuse for mess and untidiness. I noticed there is a lack of waiters to clean tables and clear away garbage under the tables in a timely manner. Therefore, more hands should be hired for the dining area.
Wenheyou Shenzhen should also think about how to offer customers fresh things so as to make its fame and popularity sustainable. After all, people who seek after new things are fascinated by any new things.
(The author is a Shenzhen Daily reporter/editor.)