Hong Kong offers 500,000 free flights from March to attract visitors after harsh Covid restrictions

Hong Kong unveiled a promotional campaign on Thursday that will include 500,000 free flights to lure visitors, businesses and investors back to the financial hub after more than three years of tough Covid-19 restrictions.

The “Hello Hong Kong” campaign was launched with dancers and flashing neon lights at the city’s main convention center, next to its famous harbour, against a backdrop of the slogan in multiple languages, including Russian and Spanish.

Hong Kong leader John Lee hailed the campaign as “probably the biggest welcome in the world” and said it would show the city was open to tourism while boosting business and investment.

“Hong Kong is now seamlessly connected to mainland China and the entire international world and there will be no isolation or quarantine,” he said at a ceremony.

“This is the perfect time for tourists, business travelers and investors from near and far to come and say ‘Hello Hong Kong’.”

Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Express and Hong Kong Airlines will receive free flight tickets to be distributed to foreign visitors for six months from March 1, authorities said.

Under the six-month campaign, most of the air tickets, worth HK$2 billion (£207 million), will come from airlines through various promotional activities, including raffles , “buy one, get one free” promotions and games.

The airlines will distribute the tickets in phases, with the Southeast Asian markets benefiting in the first phase.

An additional 80,000 air tickets will be given away to Hong Kong residents in the summer, while those living in the Greater Bay Area will also benefit from the policy, bringing the total to 700,000 tickets.

The Greater Bay Area is a Chinese government initiative to connect Hong Kong with neighboring cities on the mainland.

Hong Kong has been largely isolated behind closed borders for much of the past three years in a bid to ward off Covid, with a mandatory quarantine of up to three weeks for people arriving, as well as intensive testing and screening.

The former Britons closely followed China’s zero-covid policy until mid-2022, when it began gradually undoing its rules.

Hong Kong removed most of its remaining Covid rules in December, but wearing masks is still mandatory unless you exercise, as are daily rapid antigen tests for students.

Lee said Hong Kong would host sporting and cultural events and highlight attractions such as the Palace Museum and the M+ museum, as well as a revamped Peak Tram with special vouchers.

Upcoming events include the Clockenflap music festival, the Hong Kong marathon and the Rubgy Sevens tournament.

Hong Kong received 56 million visitors in 2019, more than seven times its population, before the pandemic began, but received just 1% of that total in 2022 amid Covid restrictions.

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