In an effort to entice tourists back to the area, Hong Kong is giving away 500,000 free flight tickets.
In recent months, the city has lifted a number of COVID-19 travel limitations, including the requirement for initial isolation.
It is now attempting to recover from the devastating effects the pandemic had on its tourism business. Also included in Hong Kong’s plan is the distribution of 500,000 airline tickets totaling more than €250 million.
The complimentary tickets were initially purchased to support airlines during the pandemic, according to executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board Dane Cheng, who spoke with the BBC back in October.
The $2 billion (€1.8 billion) “Hello Hong Kong” promotion was introduced on Wednesday, 1 February, with the free flight offer beginning on 1 March.
Before the epidemic hit, Hong Kong welcomed 56 million tourists in 2019, more than seven times its resident population. But over the past three years, the country’s severe COVID-19 regulations have kept tourists away, severely harming the tourism industry and the economy. The city’s GDP decreased 3.5% from 2021 in 2018, according to preliminary figures from the government.
How will the free flight tickets in Hong Kong program operate?
According to Fred Lam Tin-fuk, CEO of the Airport Authority Hong Kong, the complimentary tickets will be given out by the Hong Kong-based airlines Cathay Pacific, HK Express, and Hong Kong Airlines.
According to Time Out Hong Kong, tickets would be released progressively on the airlines’ international platforms, starting with Southeast Asian nations and moving on to mainland China and Northeastern Asia after that.
In the summer, 80,000 more free air tickets will be distributed to Hong Kong residents, and an additional 80,000 tickets will be distributed to Greater Bay Area residents.
Other incentives in the city include special deals and coupons that visitors can take advantage of.
One million coupons worth over HKD 100 (€11.60) each will be good for reductions on eats, beverages, travel, lodging, purchases at stores, and visits to attractions. According to Time Out Hong Kong, these will be handed out at tourist information desks situated at four border checkpoints starting at 5pm on February 2.
More than 250 events and festivals, including the Hong Kong Marathon, the Clockenflap music festival, Art Basel, and the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, will be held throughout the city in 2023.
What conditions must you meet to enter Hong Kong?
Throughout the pandemic, Hong Kong has had some of the tightest regulations for travelers.
The city generally adopted the “zero-COVID” policy of the Chinese mainland and loosened entrance restrictions months later than competitors like Singapore, Japan, and Taiwan.
Mandatory arrival quarantine was discontinued in September. However, the tourism industry only slowly recovered even after Hong Kong’s border with mainland China was reopened in January.
The guidelines have now been further loosened. If they test negative for COVID-19 upon arrival, visitors are no longer required to self isolate.
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Rapid antigen testing is used on arriving visitors as well as on day five of their stay. If your test is positive, you must stay in your hotel or other place of lodging alone for five days.
Over 12s must also show proof of immunization, unless they can show a medical condition that prevents them from receiving the shot.
Residents of Hong Kong who are not completely immunized will be allowed entry. Non-residents who are not fully immunized and who have recently traveled outside of Taiwan, Macao, or mainland China will be refused entrance to Hong Kong.