ANYA CHINAPPI WRITES – On Thursday, February 2, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-Chiu announced a new tourism campaign called “Hello Hong Kong,” designed to encourage visitors and overseas residents back to the island following the Covid-19 shutdown. The campaign features over 500,000 free plane tickets, special events, and spending vouchers.

Since the start of the pandemic, Hong Kong has maintained strict lockdown policies both internally and on incoming travelers. At times, these strict procedures have included a mandatory 21-day quarantine on arrival, and a negative Covid test every day until the end of the quarantine period. Not surprisingly, tourism plummeted.

Now, here’s the campaign breakdown: The airline ticket portion of “Hello Hong Kong” is a government relief package funded by the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AA). Its goal: to “support airlines and aviation services operators through helping to ease their liquidity pressure.” The AA has offered to purchase over 500,000 tickets to be given away to both residents and international visitors as a means of sparking a rise in tourism. Starting March 1, overseas travelers can get tickets from Hong Kong’s three main carriers: Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airlines, and HK Express. “Airlines would give out the tickets through promotions such as lucky draws, buy-one-get-one-free deals, and games or competitions,” the Airport Authority’s CEO, Fred Lam Tin-Fuk, told the South China Morning Post.

The Tourism Board is also handing out spending vouchers worth 100 HKD (around USD 13) at several locations around Hong Kong. The offer, valid on a first-come-first-serve basis to visitors who spend 90 days or less in Hong Kong, will promote vouchers for drinks, food, retail, transportation, and new attractions such as Water World at Ocean Park, the new-sixth generation Peak Tram, and the Hong Kong Palace Museum. “We are the last one but we are very clearly reopened with no restrictions,” Dane Cheng, Hong Kong’s tourism board’s executive director, told CNBC.

In addition, tourists and residents can look forward to the return of several events this year, including the Standard Charter Marathon, Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, Clockenflap Music Festival, and Art Basel.

The only remaining restriction is that international travelers must take a Covid test 48 hours before arrival, then test negative during the on-arrival Covid test at the Hong Kong Airport. And, of course, individuals must continue to wear masks both indoors and outdoors.

As Hong Kong is one of Asia’s last central financial hubs to re-open, other countries that still have travel restrictions – Japan, the Philippines, and Indonesia – may look to follow suit. Will this mean that travel restrictions in the region will soon be a thing of the past?

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