Hong Kong, Macao to greet new waves of Chinese mainland visitors as borders reopen
Published: Jan 05, 2023 05:19 PM
A file photo shows that travelers pass through a land port connecting Hong Kong and Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province. Photo: IC

A file photo shows that travelers pass through a land port connecting Hong Kong and Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province. Photo: IC

Searches on Chinese travel sites surged following official announcement that the mainland will reopen the border with Hong Kong on Sunday for the first time in three years as COVID-related travel restrictions are removed.

Searches for travel to Hong Kong surged 379 percent immediately following the announcement, while searches for air tickets between the mainland and Hong Kong increased 287 percent. Searches for Hong Kong hotels rose 163 percent, data from online travel agency showed.

Hong Kong stock market rose at Thursday's closing with Hang Seng Index up 1.25 percent and Hang Seng Tech Index up 1.51 percent.

The Chinese mainland will no longer require people to present COVID-19 tests upon arrival from Hong Kong, and the mainland will issue special tourism and business visas for mainland residents visiting Hong Kong from Sunday, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council said on its WeChat account on Thursday.

Restrictions on passenger load on flights from Hong Kong, Macao to the mainland will be canceled and the number of flights in between will be increased in an orderly manner. Meanwhile, the handling process of airport inbound flights will be streamlined to improve the efficiency of airport operations, the office said.

Travel from the mainland to Hong Kong and Macao will be resumed in an orderly manner, according to the epidemic situation in the two SARs and their service guarantee capabilities, it added.

Hong Kong and Macao are among the most popular travel destinations for mainland residents, according to an analysis note by

"As the timetable for the easing of border control has confirmed, there will be a small peak of travel to Hong Kong from the mainland during the Spring Festival holidays given current searches for flight tickets and hotels in Hong Kong," the note said.

Chief Executive of the HKSAR John Lee said on Thursday that up to 60,000 Hong Kong residents can pass customs through different ports of sea, land and air each day to go to the mainland in the initial phase of border control easing.

Data from industry information provider VariFlight sent to the Global Times on Thursday showed a total of 959 flights from the Chinese mainland to Hong Kong in December last year, a year-on-year increase of 149 percent, and an average of 31 flights per day, and the data in January has been climbing.

Cathay Pacific said on Thursday that it welcomes Hong Kong's latest measures to facilitate quarantine-free travel between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, as well as the lifting of transit restrictions, effective January 8.

Cathay Pacific will more than double its flights into the Chinese mainland, operating 61 return flights per week between Hong Kong and 13 mainland cities from January 14. This compares with 27 flights per week from Hong Kong to the mainland, and 50 flights per week from the mainland to Hong Kong, that the airline is currently operating. 

Cathay Pacific said it is working actively to resume and add more flights progressively between Hong Kong and the mainland in the coming weeks, with the aim of operating over 100 return flights per week by March.

The past three years have been a difficult period of time for Hong Kong as the pandemic has severely hit one of its pillar industries - tourism, a major source of revenues for Hong Kong.

Before the pandemic outbreak, tourism made up 4.5 percent of Hong Kong's GDP and employed around 257,000 people in 2018, accounting for 6.6 percent of total employment, according to government figures. 

The total number of visitor arrivals in Hong Kong was 91,000 in 2021, a 97.4 percent drop from the previous year, data from the Hong Kong Tourism Board showed. Of the total number of visitors, those from the mainland stood at 65,694.

Global Times