HK offers free flights to lure global visitors
Published: Feb 02, 2023 08:42 PM
Hong Kong Photo: VCG

Hong Kong Photo: VCG

In what could be the world's largest welcoming initiative, Hong Kong will offer over 700,000 free air tickets to mark the return of visitors as the city fights its way back to normal from COVID-19 and eyes a complete border reopening with the Chinese mainland. 

"A hello is worth 1,000 words... holding the unique advantage of being close to the motherland and connected to the world, Hong Kong has returned to the center of the international stage and welcomes the world to the city," Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said as he unveiled a campaign called "Hello Hong Kong" to call on visitors to come back to the city to experience its culture and scenic spots, bolster local business and attract world investors. 

A total of 500,000 free tickets - the first wave of incentives to attract tourists to Hong Kong - will be provided by three airlines mainly for short-haul flights between the Chinese mainland, Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asian countries. 

The tickets will be allocated by the airlines through "buy one, get one free" promotions and activity will last for six months starting from March 1, media reported. The city will also give away 80,000 flight tickets to Hong Kong residents this summer, and more to residents of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, which could take the total number to more than 700,000. 

"The campaign not only concerns tourism promotion but a project to restore the image of Hong Kong in the post-COVID-19 era, giving the city fresh opportunities," Timothy Chui Ting-pong, director of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

"The tourism sector is ready to receive more visitors and the tourism business will soon be back to normal. I am optimistic toward this year's business," Chui noted. He said that the sector is expecting to see the HKSAR government set aside budget funds to support the recovery of the industry.

Whether the Hong Kong economy could pick up this year to a great extent relies on the support of the mainland after the border fully reopens, Liang Haiming, chairman of the China Silk Road iValley Research Institute, told the Global Times.

"No doubt the tourism sector will benefit the most. Tourists from the mainland will shop in Hong Kong, stimulating the city's consumption and retail businesses," Liang noted.

The Global Times learned that Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province, which borders Hong Kong, is preparing for the reopening of Luohu Port - the largest land port between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland. Hong Kong media reported that the reopening date will be January 6.

Though the official opening date has yet to be announced, businesses in the Luohu Port are reportedly gearing up to reopen their doors to customers and generate sales after about three years of closure. 

"Three years of epidemic have been very difficult for everyone, and a complete border resumption is just around the corner. We are looking forward to returning to the prosperity of the past," He Shengan, a deputy general manager of Luohu Commercial City Property Management Co. told the Hong Kong China News Agency.

Lee said on Tuesday that he is confident of a complete border reopening with the mainland. The good news, including scrapping mandatory nucleic acid tests and quotas, will be released soon. 

Since the border resumed its initial operations on January 8, more than 700,000 people have crossed into the mainland and some 600,000 have entered Hong Kong, Lee revealed, describing Hong Kong as having entered a new stage of recovery.

To attract international travelers, Hong Kong will host many major events this year, from finance, economy, innovation and technology, to sporting events, arts and culture, food and wine, as well as major international conferences and exhibitions, according to Lee.