Hong Kong is offering free plane tickets to tourists in a bid to entice them to return, it has been announced.
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee announced the new “Hello, Hong Kong” campaign featuring “positive stories” about the city to an audience of business and tourism leaders last Thursday. He guaranteed “no isolation, quarantine or restrictions.”
BREAKING! The world’s biggest welcome drive is on! Airlines will hold different promotional events to give away 500,000 air tickets for travelling to Hong Kong, as part of a new “Hello Hong Kong” campaign, which aims to welcome back visitors to enjoy the many new attractions. pic.twitter.com/K5XoIL5MDR— BrandHongKong 香港亞洲國際都會 (@Brand_HK) February 2, 2023
The giveaway begins on 1 March, with half a million airline tickets worth €250 million for the taking and a further 80,000 to be made available to Hong Kong residents in the summer. It’s a clever way to focus the world’s attention on the dropping of all COVID restrictions, and a cunning use of tickets said to have originally been purchased as part of the government’s support for the airline industry during the pandemic.
Hong Kong-based airlines Cathay Pacific, HK Express and Hong Kong Airlines, will be distributing the tickets on overseas platforms in stages, according to Fred Lam Tin-fuk, chief executive officer of the Airport Authority Hong Kong. Time Out Hong Kong is reporting the process is due to start with Southeast Asian countries, followed by mainland China and Northeastern Asia.
Once a thriving economic centre, Hong Kong has suffered a reputational crisis following the Covid-19 crisis and growing criticism of increasingly authoritarian rule in the Chinese special administrative region.
Beijing’s strict zero Covid-19 policy of quarantines, border closures and mandatory mask-wearing, enabled Hong Kong to avoid the worst of the pandemic, before the Omicron variant hit in early 2022. But it paid a heavy economic price.
In pre-pandemic times, the city was accustomed to welcoming more than seven times its population each year in tourist arrivals. But by 2022, Hong Kong’s visitor numbers had plummeted to 600,000, just 1% of the visitors recorded in 2018.
As well as the plane ticket bonanza, the city is hoping to tempt the crowds with a range of other special offers and discounts available at border checkpoints, including vouchers for food and drinks, transport, shopping and attractions.
In addition, a full events calendar is planned for 2023, with more than 250 events and festivals taking place throughout the year, starting with the Hong Kong Marathon next weekend, and The Arctic Monkeys, Mono and Kings of Convenience among the headliners at the Clockenflap music festival in March.