Hong Kong is giving away free plane tickets to travelers

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

Just days after dropping its long-term hotel quarantine requirement, Hong Kong has confirmed plans to give away half a million airline tickets to boost tourism.

The move, first announced two years ago, was confirmed to CNN by a spokesman for the Airport Authority of Hong Kong (AAHK), who said the 500,000 tickets, worth about 254.8 million dollars, would go to global visitors, along with residents.

“In 2020, the Airport Authority of Hong Kong bought about 500,000 airline tickets in advance from the territory’s airlines as part of an aid package to support the aviation industry” , says the spokesman.

“The purchase is intended to inject liquidity into the airlines going forward, while the tickets will be given away to global visitors and Hong Kong residents in the market recovery drive.”

“Recovery Campaign”

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

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

Marc Fernandes/NurPhoto/AP

More details will be announced once the relevant agreements are made with the airlines, they said.

Hong Kong has been largely isolated from the rest of the world due to its Covid-19 quarantine rules, which at one point forced incoming travelers to spend 21 days in a hotel room for at your own expense, with only Hong Kong residents allowed entry.

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

Cathay Pacific, the city’s flag carrier, created a virtual “waiting room” to access its website at one point, while online travel booking service Expedia saw a ninefold increase in searches for flights from Hong Kong to Tokyo and 11 times for flights from Hong Kong to Osaka, although interest in flights to Hong Kong remained unchanged, according to Lavinia Rajaram, head of public relations for Expedia in 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 while the hotel quarantine may have been lifted, visitors to Hong Kong still face a number of rules and restrictions before and after they arrive.

Arriving international travelers must present a pre-flight vaccination certificate, as well as a negative PCR test and rapid antigen test, prior to entry.

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

Visitors must also complete 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 Magromo and Jake Kwon also contributed to this report.

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