Hong Kong offers free plane tickets to travelers

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(CNN) — Hong Kong attracted around 56 million visitors a year before the pandemic, and now the popular destination is taking major steps to win back tourists after more than two years of some of the world’s toughest travel restrictions.

Just days after dropping its long-standing mandatory hotel quarantine requirement, Hong Kong confirmed plans to donate half a million plane tickets in a bid to boost tourism.

The move, first announced two years ago, was confirmed to CNN by a spokesperson for the Airports Authority of Hong Kong (AAHK), who said the 500,000 tickets, worth approximately $254.8 million, would go to visitors from around the world, as well as residents.

“In 2020, the Hong Kong Airports Authority purchased around 500,000 air tickets in advance from the territory’s national airlines as part of a relief program to support the aviation industry,” said the spokesperson.

“The purchase is intended to inject cash into the airlines from the start, while the tickets will be distributed to worldwide visitors and Hong Kong residents as part of the market recovery campaign.”

“Recovery Campaign”

Travelers in the departure hall of Hong Kong International Airport on September 26.

Marc Fernandes/NurPhoto/AP

Further details will be announced once the relevant arrangements have been made with the airlines, they said.

Hong Kong has been largely cut off from the rest of the world due to its Covid-19 quarantine rules, which at one point required incoming travelers to spend 21 days in a hotel room at their own expense, only Hong residents Kong being allowed to enter.

The quarantine period had been reduced from seven days to three when it was officially lifted on September 26, prompting many residents to log on to airline websites to book flights.

Cathay Pacific, the city’s national airline, has set up a virtual ‘waiting room’ to access its website at any given time, while online travel booking service Expedia has increased the search for flights from Hong Kong to Tokyo and by eleven for flights from Hong Kong to Osaka – although interest in flights to Hong Kong remained unchanged, according to Lavinia Rajaram, Expedia’s public relations manager for Asia.

“We hope to give maximum scope to reconnect Hong Kong and revitalize our economy,” Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee told a news conference on Friday.

But although the hotel quarantine has been lifted, visitors to Hong Kong still face various rules and restrictions before and after arrival.

Incoming international travelers must present a pre-flight vaccination certificate, as well as a negative PCR test and rapid antigen test, before entering.

Once granted entry, visitors must submit to a three-day self-policing period, during which they are prohibited from eating in restaurants or visiting bars.

Visitors must also take PCR tests on days 2, 4 and 6 after arrival, and a rapid antigen test every day for seven days.

CNN’s Maggie Hiufu Wong, Simone McCarthy, Kathleen Magramo and Jake Kwon also contributed to this report.

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