Hong Kong officials have announced a plan to woo tourists. The government is giving away 500,000 free airline tickets to increase visitors to the city.
The initiative, dubbed “Hello Hong Kong,” has been in motion for two years but wasn’t announced until Thursday.
The 500,000 tickets will be distributed among the city’s three airlines; Cathay Pacific, HK Express, and Hongkong Airlines.
Hong Kong Airport Authority will cover the cost of economy-class airfare, but travelers must pay taxes and other fees. The tickets cost the city about $254.8 million in total, CNN reported.
Those interested in winning a ticket can head to Hong Kong’s airport website starting March 1 and enter their name. Tickets will be distributed in three phases: from March 1 to people across Southeast Asia, from April 1 to people living in mainland China and from May 1 to residents in the rest of the world.
However, travel dates haven’t been disclosed.
In addition to the free airfares, the Hong Kong Tourism Board will also allocate 1 million consumption vouchers for travelers to use for travel-related activities such as dining and retail.
In 2018, Hong Kong attracted 65.1 million visitors, which steadily declined over the following four years due to COVID and political unrest. The number of visitors dropped to 55.9 million in 2019 and 3.5 million the next year. The city closed its borders to foreign visitors and imposed strict quarantine rules, which greatly affected the number of visitors in 2021, less than 100,000. Last year, the city saw 600,000 visitors but was still nowhere close to pre-pandemic days.
Officials aim to revive its economy and bring back tourism through the campaign. Dane Cheng, Executive Director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, said the city is committed to fully reopening to travelers, adding, “we need to make it clear that we are now totally, fully, unconditionally reopening to our travelers.”
However, foreign visitors must show proof of vaccination and recent negative COVID-19 tests before entering Hong Kong, and masking is still mandatory in all public areas.