Hong Kong’s leader is to launch a major HK$2 billion-plus (US$255 million) campaign designed to boost tourism, business and investment on Thursday, which will include a giveaway of at least 500,000 free airline tickets to visitors and city residents.
John Lee Ka-chiu will unveil the “Hello Hong Kong” bid to increase the number of visitors, bolster business and attract investors as the city fights its way back to normality from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The campaign is expected to highlight more than 200 business, cultural and tourism events, including those that had been suspended for three years because of the health crisis, to underline to the world that the city is back in the game.
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Sources added the mandatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test requirement for travellers crossing the border with mainland China could be scrapped as early as February 6 because the restriction has been blamed for the slow revival of the tourist trade from the north.
Lee and more than 100 guests, including senior officials, Executive Council members, foreign envoys, chambers of commerce and representatives of the tourism industry will be at the campaign launch at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai on Thursday.
The city’s leader would unveil a series of events “to tell the world the good stories of Hong Kong and to enhance promotion of Hong Kong’s business opportunities, cultural attractions and tourism experiences”, a government source said.
“The wide range of attendees from different sectors is aimed to show everyone across the globe that the city has been reopened and we welcome them all to come.”
Sources said Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po would explain the future publicity plans at a separate event the same day.
The Airport Authority will also announce details of the distribution of the free air tickets.
Another insider said most of the free air tickets will be distributed by the city’s carriers – Cathay Pacific and the group’s budget carrier HK Express, as well as Hong Kong Airlines – with some handed out by travel agencies to international travellers.
“Many of the tickets will be given to travellers in Asian countries, such as mainland China with some to those in Europe and the United States. There will also be a small portion of tickets reserved for Hongkongers to travel overseas,” the insider said.
“There are several ways to hand out the free tickets, including a ‘buy one, get one free’ arrangement, a lucky draw, game competitions and in the form of a promotion package offered to the airlines or travel agencies’ overseas partners.”
Hong Kong to launch ‘big’ promotion to lure visitors, city leader says
The Tourism Board is also expected to announce an app for the distribution of small welcome gifts for overseas travellers, such as free drinks, shopping and meal vouchers, as part of a HK$100 million promotional campaign.
“Once they get registered, they will be given a small gift which they can only redeem in Hong Kong,” a third source explained.
Among the 200 events that the campaign will highlight include the “Virtually Versailles” exhibition from April to July, an immersive sound and light display centred around the opulent palace created by French King Louis XIV, known as the “Sun King,” and the first Hong Kong Pop Culture Festival from April to December.
An exhibition of masterpieces from the world-famous Uffizi Galleries in Florence, Italy in October and the Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit in November will also be highlighted.
Lee will lead a trip to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates from Saturday to promote trade, investment and cultural ties as part of the promotion.
The visit will also include 30 delegates from different sectors in the city.
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The group will include Deputy Secretary for Justice Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, financial services and treasury chief Christopher Hui Ching-yu and commerce and economic development head Algernon Yau Ying-wah.
The Post was told one key message in the rebranding effort was “seeing is believing”, designed to allow people to observe how the principle of “one country, two systems” remained strong and combat any negative images of the city abroad.
Around 1,000 political and business leaders, as well as international media representatives, are expected to be invited to the city on sponsored trips.
Lee pledged to organise the programme in his maiden policy address last October.
Hong Kong, however, has still to ditch all its pandemic restrictions, with the mandatory use of masks among the remaining measures.
Travellers crossing the border with the mainland in either direction are still required to undergo a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test inside 48 hours before departure.
There is also a 50,000 people a day quota for people who arrive through four main land crossings.
But Lee said on Tuesday the authorities would “very soon” axe PCR test requirements for travellers going to the mainland and the mask mandate could be lifted after the winter.
More from South China Morning Post:
- A tourism tale of 3 cities: Tokyo thrives, Macau lures mainland Chinese visitors, while Hong Kong waits to shake off Covid blues
- Covid-19: Hong Kong must decide for itself when to lift curbs, health experts say ahead of WHO decision on pandemic status
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