The once-popular tourist destination has seen its lustre fade significantly imposing some of the world’s toughest pandemic travel restrictions. Beijing’s increasingly hardline actions targeting Hong Kong’s democracy didn’t help, either.
According to a new report from CNN, Hong Kong has confirmed its plans to give away half a million air tickets in a bid to resuscitate the city’s flailing tourism numbers.
Perennially among the world’s most dynamic and heavily visited travel locales, Hong Kong attracted some 56 million visitors a year before the pandemic, and now the once-popular destination is taking significant steps to win tourists back after over two years of some of the world’s toughest travel restrictions, set amid the backdrop of endless news stories of Beijing flexing its muscle to exert more and more control over the territory.
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Just a few days after dropping its longstanding mandatory hotel quarantine requirement that kept visitors away in droves, Hong Kong says it will give away 500,000 airline tickets.
The move, first announced two years ago, was confirmed to CNN by a spokesperson from the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK), which said that the 500,000 tickets, worth nearly US$255 million, would go to global visitors, along with some Hong Kong residents.
“Back in 2020, Airport Authority Hong Kong purchased around 500,000 air tickets in advance from the territory’s home-based airlines as part of a relief package to support the aviation industry,” says the spokesperson.
“The purchase serves the purpose of injecting liquidity into the airlines upfront, while the tickets will be given away to global visitors and Hong Kong residents in the market recovery campaign.”
It’s a smart strategy on both ends, but given the still-strict restrictions facing visitors to Hong Kong – despite the mandatory quarantine period being recently axed – will travellers take the bait?
TOUGH COVID RESTRICTIONS
Hong Kong has been largely cut off from the rest of the world due to its strict Covid-19 quarantine rules, which at one point required inbound travellers to spend a whopping 21 days in a hotel room at their own expense, with only Hong Kong residents permitted entry.
The quarantine period had been reduced from seven to three days previously, and it was officially scrapped only on September 26, prompting loads of residents to scramble to book flights.
But while the hotel quarantine may have been lifted, visitors to Hong Kong still face a host of rules and restrictions before and after arriving.
Incoming international travelers must submit a pre-flight vaccination certificate, as well as a negative PCR test and rapid antigen test, before entering. Once they’ve been permitted to enter, visitors are required to undergo a three-day self-monitoring period, during which time they’re prohibited from eating in restaurants or visiting bars. Sound like a great vacation so far? Wait for what’s next.
Visitors also need to complete PCR tests on the second, fourth, and sixth days after arrival, and a rapid antigen test every day for seven days.
With much of the region – and indeed the world – now opening up with none of these onerous restrictions and requirements, it remains to be seen if even the promise of a free airline ticket will be enough to entice leisure travellers to pay a visit to Hong Kong.
Source: CNN Travel | Unlocking the World
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