Hong Kong is hoping to lure back overseas visitors by giving away 500,000 free air tickets to the territory, the chief executive of the territory’s tourism board has announced.
But Dane Cheng told the BBC that the massive ticket giveaway, estimated to be worth more than USD $254 million, won’t begin until the Hong Kong government lifts remaining COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Last month, Hong Kong significantly eased pandemic-era border controls by removing quarantine restrictions, but experts have warned that the remaining rules still make the city highly unattractive as a place to visit for the vast majority of overseas travellers.
Under Hong Kong’s so-called ‘0+3’ travel rules, visitors must take a pre-departure test, as well as a second COVID-19 test immediately on arrival and then several more tests during their stay in the territory.
Hong Kong also has strict social distancing rules in force including a widespread mask mandate, a ban on various forms of live entertainment and harsh penalties for people who break rules governing group gatherings.
The Hong Kong Tourism Board admits the new border rules are only initially expected to attract returning residents, as well as some visiting family members and a small number of business travellers.
“Once the government announces it will remove all Covid-19 restrictions for inbound travellers, we’ll roll out the advertising campaigns for the free air tickets,” Cheng told the BBC.
The Tourism Board snapped up the tickets at the height of the pandemic as a way to financially support airlines but arrangements on how the scheme will operate are yet to be finalised with airlines taking part in the scheme.
Along with the ticket giveaway, Hong Kong s hoping to revive the territory’s decimated tourism industry with a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign. The campaign will also involve bringing over 500 social media influencers to help promote the city.
Initially, the advertising campaign will focus on the local Asian market before going further afield as restrictions are lifted or significantly eased.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.