Hong Kong says ‘hello’ to woo back visitors after COVID isolation
HONG KONG, Feb 2 (Reuters) – Hong Kong leader John Lee unveiled on Thursday a promotional campaign that will include 500,000 free flights to lure visitors, businesses and investors back to the financial hub. after more than three years of tough containment of COVID-19.
The “Hello Hong Kong” campaign was launched with dancers and flashing neon lights at the city’s main convention center near its famous harbor, with a backdrop bearing the slogan in several languages, including ir -Russian and Spanish.
Lee, speaking in English, said that the campaign showed that the city was open to tourism and aimed to boost business and investment in the Chinese special administrative region.
“Hong Kong is now connected to mainland China and the entire international world, and there will be no isolation, no quarantine and no restrictions on the experience … enjoy the rush of the world city of Asia,” he added.
Officials from the city’s tourism, commerce and aviation departments also attended the launch.
Hong Kong has been largely sealed behind closed borders for most of the past three years in an effort to ward off COVID, with mandatory quarantine of up to three weeks for arrivals, as well as intensive testing and screening.
The former British colony closely followed China’s zero-COVID policy until mid-2022, when it began phasing out its rules.
Hong Kong dropped most of the rest in December, but mask-wearing remains mandatory except during exercise, along with daily rapid antigen testing for students.
There is still a quota system for travelers between the mainland and Hong Kong and a COVID test requirement. Three of Hong Kong’s border checkpoints with China remained closed.
In December, China said it would lift most of its COVID restrictions and in January, reopened its borders to the world, despite a sharp increase in infections.
Many in Hong Kong deplored the COVID rules as threatening the city’s competitiveness and position as an international financial center, especially after a period of political tension over pro-democracy protests.
Lee said Hong Kong will host sporting and cultural events and highlight attractions such as the Palace Museum and the M+ museum, as well as the revamped Peak Tram with special vouchers.
Upcoming events include the Clockenflap music festival, the Hong Kong marathon and the Rugby Sevens tournament.
Hong Kong celebrities, officials and business executives appeared in promotional videos streamed during the ceremony that will be used to promote the city, Lee said.
“We want to let foreigners know that Hong Kong has a unique status, especially when the principles of “one country, two systems” will be implemented in Hong Kong for a long time,” he added.
Airlines Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Express and Hong Kong Airlines will receive free flight tickets to distribute to foreign visitors for six months from March 1, officials said. (Reporting by Farah Master, Jessie Pang, Twinnie Siu and Donny Kwok; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Robert Birsel)