Pandemic, communism-hit Hong Kong to offer 500,000 free plane tickets to tourists

Hong Kong’s Chinese-controlled government announced last week it would give 500,000 free airline tickets worth HK$2 billion ($254.8 million) to tourists and business travelers next year as part of a plan to revive the battered tourism industry the country’s industry after two years of strict Chinese travel restrictions over the coronavirus.

The tickets were previously pre-purchased in April 2020 as part of an assistance package by the Hong Kong Airport Authority to airlines and aviation support services at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in China.

“Back in 2020, the Airports Authority of Hong Kong purchased approximately 500,000 airline tickets in advance from airlines based in the region as part of an aid package to support the aviation industry,” a spokesman for the Airports Authority of Hong Kong said. he said CNN on October 6. “The market serves the purpose of injecting liquidity into airlines in advance, while tickets will be given to global visitors and Hong Kong residents in the market recovery campaign.”

The executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, Dane Cheng Ting-yat, he said on Wednesday that the board is expected to launch the accompanying advertising campaign for the program in early 2023, with the Hong Kong Airport Authority responsible for ticket distribution. “As soon as the government announces that it will remove everything [Chinese coronavirus] restrictions on inbound travelers, we will start advertising campaigns for the free air tickets,” said Cheng Ting-yat.

Prudence Lai, senior analyst at market research firm Euromonitor International he said the BBC on Thursday that she believes offering free air tickets will help speed up the process of restoring Hong Kong’s reputation as a popular travel destination.

“Hong Kong’s pre-Covid situation represents the market’s potential for a full recovery,” Lai told the BBC. “However, this largely depends on when Chinese tourists return to the mainland, as mainland China contributes more than half of Hong Kong’s inbound arrivals and travel receipts.”

According to the BBC, Hong Kong recorded around 56 million visitors in 2019. In the first eight months of 2022, the region saw only around 184,000 visitors.

Hong Kong travel and tourism has been decimated by China’s draconian ‘Zero-Covid’ policies, which the region has only just begun to relax. In September, Willie Walsh, Director General of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), he said Reuters that as a result of “Zero-Covid” policies — and not because of the coronavirus itself — Hong Kong had lost its position as a global aviation hub.

Until September 26, international travelers to Hong Kong were required to spend 21 days in a hotel room quarantine at their own expense before being allowed proper entry into the territory. The recently announced changes Abandon the 21-day quarantine period in favor of a three-day “0+3” self-monitoring period on arrival, with mandatory periodic PCR testing at set intervals and Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) every day for a week. Travelers are still barred from entering certain public places such as bars or restaurants during the three-day period. In addition, travelers will no longer need to projection negative coronavirus test to board a plane bound for Hong Kong.

In addition to its travel and tourism industry being decimated by ‘Zero-Covid’ policies, Hong Kong has also been punished by China’s authoritarianism following the pro-democracy protests of 2019. The Chinese Communist Party was imposed a “national security” law in 2020 that has been used to criminalize and punish any form of anti-communist dissent; proposal pro-democracy protest leaders, and indeed arrest minors — effectively eliminating the “One Country, Two Systems” policy agreed to by China when the UK handed over control of Hong Kong in 1997, which prevented the Communist Party from imposing or enforcing laws in Hong Kong.

Christian K. Caruzo is a writer from Venezuela documenting life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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