Hong Kong gov’t to distribute 80,000 free air tickets to residents

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Hong Kong is handing out 80,000 free flight tickets to the city’s residents to travel abroad, authorities have announced.

Hong Kong International Airport plane flight travel
The departure hall of Hong Kong International Airport. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The city’s airlines will be distributing the tickets, Fred Lam, the Chief Executive Officer of the Airport Authority Hong Kong, said at a press conference on Thursday.

The tickets are part of a larger giveaway under the government’s “Hello Hong Kong” campaign, also announced on Thursday and meant to boost tourism after three years of strict Covid-19 rules long abandoned in other parts of the world.

Authorities said they were handing out 500,000 flight tickets to potential overseas tourists to entice them to come to the city, starting first with the Southeast Asian market – targeting countries includingThailand, the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia.

The giveaway to Hong Kong residents to travel abroad, Lam said, is “a way to let Hong Kong people share the same joy that this campaign would bring about.”

See also: Explainer: Hong Kong’s tourism sector faces long road to recovery despite easing of Covid curbs

“We feel this is all part of the idea of ‘Hello Hong Kong’ within Hong Kong,” he added.

Authorities did not share details such as when the tickets would be handed out or what destinations they would allow holders to travel to.

Separately, another 80,000 free plane tickets would be given to residents in the Greater Bay Area to attract them to come to Hong Kong.

Cathay Pacific counter
An empty Cathay Pacific counter at Hong Kong’s airport. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

In 2021, the Airport Authority launched a similar giveaway to encourage people to get vaccinated against Covid-19. Between airlines Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Express, 50,000 flight tickets were handed out via lucky draw to residents, while another 10,000 were reserved for vaccinated airport employees.

HK$2 billion campaign

The “Hello Hong Kong” campaign comes as the city has rolled back most of its stringent Covid-19 restrictions that severely hampered the tourism sector, which the government had once identified as one of the city’s four “pillar industries” powering its economic growth.

At their strictest, rules required inbound travellers to quarantine at a hotel, at their own expense for 21 days in addition to taking multiple Covid-19 tests upon arrival. The duration of hotel quarantine was gradually reduced to three days before being scrapped altogether only in September. A mask mandate remains in force, with residents and visitors facing a HK$5,000 fine unless they comply.

Hong Kong Airport covid
Hong Kong International Airport in July 2022 amid the Covid-19 pandemic. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Also as part of the HK$2 billion campaign, Chief Executive John Lee said the city would be inviting public figures – from “business heavyweights to political dignitaries to media chiefs and influencers” – to come to Hong Kong. Here, he said, they can “see for themselves the welcoming atmosphere, promising opportunities, exciting developments and new attractions.”

“Everyone in Hong Kong… has been gearing up to welcome you. We can’t wait to say hello personally to each and everyone of you,” he said.

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