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Five Reasons Why The “Night Economy” is a Hot Topic in Asia Listen with ReadSpeaker

Nearly two years since Asian borders shut due to COVID-19, much of the region is experiencing a deficit of urban vibrancy. Without inbound tourists and with irregular domestic travel due to the pandemic, city streets are empty and quiet, especially after dark.

Now, as some markets prepare to reopen to international travel, Asian cities are looking at ways to restore their dynamic appeal and stimulate consumer spending. The current hot phrase is “night economy”. National and regional tourism boards across Asia have undertaken research that shows they generally underperform for night-time versus daytime visitor spend.

As a result, cities are sprucing up their major landmarks, shopping destinations, waterfronts, and night markets. Neon-lit promotional videos aim to reconnect local people with domestic and international tourists. Movie-style 3D billboards and augmented reality mall facades in Tokyo, Chengdu, and Kuala Lumpur add a “phygital” twist to after-dark city adventures.

The objective is to make the mix of nighttime activities more exciting for residents and visitors who desire more from an evening than hanging out in a restaurant and bar. Night tourism also assuages climatic challenges. Hot, humid daytime temperatures for much of the year in Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia summer make the cooler evening hours more amenable for exploring.

From China to South Korea to Vietnam, experience-driven night economy plans will integrate shopping, dining, and sightseeing, plus eye-catching photo backdrops for social media. Here are five factors why the night economy will be a hot topic in 2022:

A priority is to re-excite consumers about in-store shopping, especially when they travel. Reanimating downtown areas to entice residents and visitors to spend more will be no easy task given the expansive popularity of mobile shopping.


In Southeast Asia, 70 million consumers migrated to eCommerce during the pandemic, says a report by Bain & Co and Facebook. “With more people structuring their spending around online platforms, digital-centric consumption looks increasingly likely to stay,” the report notes.


As we asked in our earlier article on Five potential indicators for the future of travel retail, will “revenge spend” tourists stimulate retail economies when travel resumes? The answer is uncertain. To stimulate demand, however, local authorities will invest to revamp night markets, commission 3D mall facades installations, and open duty-free shopping venues. Some cities are considering 24-hour opening for some stores and malls to boost footfall in central areas.



  • Cities want to drive new interactive trends in night-time retail while differentiating between in-store experiences and online shopping
  • City-center retailing will be revamped, with extended opening hours, downtown duty-free outlets, and pop-up brand experience centers
  • Neon-lit backdrops are highly photogenic for social media users to share and advocate night retail innovations

Images of thousands of tourists thronging Shanghai’s riverfront Bund at night during the October Golden Week highlight the scale of China’s domestic travel recovery. The city reported over 1.3 million visitors to the Bund in the first two days of the week-long holiday.


For the past year, night tourism has been heavily promoted in Chinese cities to encourage people to stay longer, experience unique evening attractions, and spend more. “The liveliness of the night economy is an important measure of urban vitality. Developing night-time tourism will help drive the business growth of restaurants and shopping areas near sightseeing spots,” a spokesperson for online travel platform Fliggy said.


Urban amusement parks are a booming sector, with evening ticket sales up by 469 percent in the first half of 2021 compared to the same 2019 period. The opening in September of Universal Studios Beijing was perfectly timed. Featuring movie-themed rides, attractions, hotels, and retail outlets, the resort was described by Chinese media as “one of the hottest travel destinations” during October Golden Week.



  • After-dark activities are especially popular on weekends and public holidays, like Chinese New Year, Dragon Boat Festival, and October Golden Week
  • Night-specific events encourage day-trippers to stay at least one night and spend on shopping, dining, and entertainment
  • Night tourism is considered a high-potential sector for expanding consumption and supporting post-pandemic economic development

The popular island getaway of Phu Quoc has rebranded itself as Vietnam's first “Sleepless City”. It recently opened the Phu Quoc United Center, a vast entertainment complex features floating laser and light shows and special after-dark events each night of the year. Visitors to Vietnam’s largest tourist development also enjoy four shopping villages, sunset musical performances, and evening street shows inspired by Vietnamese culture and traditions.


The pandemic has given markets like Vietnam a chance to experiment with new night-time discovery concepts. Although its borders remain closed, the government and national tourism board are launching evening-only attractions and experiences in primary destinations. Initially targeted at domestic visitors, it is hoped that the experiential photos, reviews, and tips they share on social media will entice international visitors in the future.



  • Phu Quoc could be one of Vietnam’s first destinations to reopen to tourism, providing an early opportunity to showcase its Sleepless City innovations
  • The island attracts both domestic and international tourists, enabling it to research which aspects of the night economy appeal to different demographics
  • Four fairytale-themed shopping villages provide more than 700 retail stores and plentiful space for evening cultural and fashion shows that draw potential shoppers

The Korean Tourism Organization (KTO) is a regional pioneer of the night economy. Before the pandemic, it began creatively promoting Seoul’s neon-lit landscapes to encourage visitors to stay and spend. Now the concept is expanding. “While Seoul is considered to be the most representative city in the nation for its nightlife, visitors may also find stores or restaurants that open throughout the night in most other cities,” says the KTO.


The 2021 Korean International Tourism Expo in July featured drone shows and media facades showcasing newly curated night activities. Meanwhile, released in September 2021, the Korean capital’s new promotional video, Your Seoul Goes On, features pop megastars BTS. Shot mostly at night, it weaves a glossy tapestry of night-time picnics and dining, shopping, culture shows, and sightseeing. It garnered 58 million views in the first month of its release.



  • Seoul started to develop its nightlife economy before the pandemic, enabling city authorities to test out after-dark activities for Asian travelers
  • South Korea’s capital benefits from the spectacular global appeal of BTS, whose advocacy of Seoul at night is likely to entice K-pop fans once borders reopen
  • The city’s new destination video cleverly integrates local fashions with Seoul’s glitziest retail venues to promote the vibrancy of night-shopping

The prototype pop-up night festival that cities in Asia would like to emulate is Vivid Sydney. Founded in 2009, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest festival of lights, music, and ideas transforms the famous harbor, city center, and major landmarks with colorful multimedia and 3D projections. Live music performances and art installations entertain the crowds, and the entire event is streamed across social media platforms.


The economic benefits for Sydney have been impressive. In 2019, the three-week night-focused event attracted around 2.4 million visitors and generated AUD 172 million in consumer spending. Visitor growth for Vivid Sydney was especially strong from Asia, with tourists from India increasing by 46 percent, South Korea (24 percent), Malaysia (12 percent), and China (seven percent).



  • Postponed due to COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021, Vivid Sydney will return from 27 May-18 June 2022. It could attract a record number of "revenge travelers” from Asia
  • Spectacular visual aesthetics entice high-spending visitors to the three-week event. The whole event is live-streamed, inviting overseas spectators to plan a future trip
  • Vivid Sydney is used by brands, retailers, and travel and lifestyle service providers to engage a large, fun-seeking audience across the city and online worldwide