Hong Kong is eager to re-enter the tourist market and is now offering 500,000 people free air tickets to the international financial hub in order to catch up with other popular travel destinations in the region.
During the pandemic, the city largely aligned itself with mainland China’s “zero-COVID” strategy and relaxed entry rules months later than competitors such as Singapore, Japan, and Taiwan. Even after reopening its border with China in January, tourism recovery was slow.
On February 2, Chief Executive John Lee launched the “Hello Hong Kong” tourism campaign, announcing that the city will provide 500,000 free air tickets to welcome tourists from around the world in what he called “probably the world’s biggest welcome ever.”
According to a press release from the Hong Kong Tourism Board, the campaign is “unprecedented,” and the city will host over 250 events and festivals this year to entice travellers and showcase the city’s “dynamic and diverse appeal.” Visitors will also receive consumption vouchers to help them explore the Asian city.
Why is Hong Kong providing free air tickets?
The city is making a big statement to entice tourists back after strict COVID-19 restrictions kept most visitors away, and the city’s tourism industry – an important part of its economy – suffered greatly.
The city finally dropped its mandatory hotel quarantine rule and PCR tests for incoming travellers in recent months, resulting in a slight increase in arrival figures. Nonetheless, visitor numbers in 2022 were only 1% of those in 2019.
“We hope those who secure the air tickets can bring two or three more relatives and friends to the city. Although we are only giving away 500,000 air tickets, we believe this will help bring over 1.5 million visitors to Hong Kong,” said Fred Lam, CEO of Airport Authority Hong Kong.
What is the Hello Hong Kong free ticket campaign all about?
People can enter the campaign by registering on the Hong Kong airport website and checking back for when they are eligible to participate, or by going directly to the airlines’ websites when they are eligible. The airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong Express, and Hong Kong Airlines, will distribute the tickets in stages based on residence.
According to Lam, the majority of the plane tickets – worth $2 billion Hong Kong dollars ($255 million) – will be determined through various promotional activities such as lucky draws, “buy one, get one free” promotions, and games.
All tickets will be round-trip economy class, according to the website, and “related surcharges, fees, and taxes” will be paid by the winner.
Who is eligible for free Hong Kong tickets?
According to the Hong Kong airport website, Asian residents appear to be the campaign’s first targeted demographic.
Those living outside of Asia will not be able to apply until May.
When will the campaign begin?
For those in Southeast Asia, the campaign will begin on March 1. For the next six months, a new market will become eligible once a month. The precise launch dates will be disclosed.
What are the additional vouchers available to visitors?
Other “Hong Kong Goodies” are also offered to visitors to help them enjoy the city:
A welcome drink worth more than HK$100 (about $13) from one of 100 participating bars, restaurants, and hotels.
A HK$100 cash voucher redeemable in the transportation, culinary, retail, and attractions sectors. There are over 140 participating businesses, and there is no minimum spending requirement.
An exclusive gift worth over HK$100 at “one of Hong Kong’s many attractions and museums as a special memento of your visit.”