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Hong Kong offers 500,000 free flights to lure back visitors after tough Covid curbs


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

The “Hello Hong Kong” campaign was launched with dancers and neon lights at the city’s main convention center, next to its famous harbor, with a slogan in various languages, including Russian and Spanish, in the background.

Hong Kong leader John Lee hailed the campaign as “probably the world’s biggest welcome ever” and said it would show the city is open to tourism while stimulating business and investment.

“Hong Kong is now organically connected to mainland China and the entire international world, and there will be neither isolation nor quarantine,” he said at the ceremony.

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

Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Express and Hong Kong Airlines will receive free tickets to be distributed to international visitors over a six-month period from March 1, officials said.

As part of the six-month campaign, the majority of the HK$2bn (£207m) plane tickets will be collected from airlines through a variety of promotional activities including sweepstakes, buy one get one free promotions and games.

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

Hong Kong residents will be given away an additional 80,000 tickets during the summer, while those living in the Greater Bay Area will also benefit from the policy, for a total of 700,000 tickets.

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

Hong Kong has been largely closed behind closed borders for most of the past three years in an attempt to prevent Covid, with mandatory quarantines of up to three weeks for arrivals, and intensive testing and screening.

The former Britons closely followed China’s coronavirus policy until mid-2022, when it began to phase out its rules.

Hong Kong lifted most of the remaining Covid rules in December, but masks remain mandatory unless they are playing sports, as well as daily rapid antigen tests for students.

Mr. Lee said Hong Kong will host sports and cultural events and highlight landmarks such as the Palace Museum and M+ Museum, as well as the upgraded 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 pre-pandemic population, but only 1% of that total visited in 2022 due to Covid-related restrictions.

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