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Hong Kong woo visitors with free flights, after three years of curbs

HONG KONG – Hong Kong leader John Lee unveiled on Thursday a promotion campaign that will include 500,000 free flights to woo back visitors, businesses and investors to the financial hub after more than three years of tough Covid-19 curbs.

The “Hello Hong Kong” campaign was launched with dancers and flashing neon lights in the city’s main convention centre, next to its famous harbour, with a backdrop bearing the slogan in various languages including Russian and Spanish.

Mr Lee, Hong Kong’s chief executive, said the campaign would show that the city is open for tourism and aimed at boosting business and investment in the Chinese special administrative region.

“Hong Kong is now connected to mainland China and the whole international world, and there will be no isolation, no quarantine and no restrictions on experiencing...enjoying the hustle and bustle of Asia’s world city,” Mr Lee said.

He added that Hong Kong would host sports and cultural events and highlight attractions such as the Palace Museum and M+ museum, as well as a revamped Peak Tram with special vouchers.

Meanwhile, celebrities, officials and business executives were featured in promotional videos streamed during the ceremony, with plans for them to be used to promote the city.

“We have to let outsiders know that Hong Kong has a unique status, especially when the ‘one country, two systems’ principles will be implemented in Hong Kong for a long time,” he added.

The free flight tickets will be distributed to overseas visitors for six months, starting from March 1, with airlines Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Express and Hong Kong Airlines receiving them.

The launch was attended by several officials including those from the city’s tourism, trade and aviation departments.

Hong Kong was largely sealed off behind closed borders for much of the past three years in a bid to ward off Covid-19, with mandatory quarantine of up to three weeks for people arriving as well as intensive testing and screening.

The city closely followed China’s zero-Covid-19 policy until the middle of 2022 when it began to gradually unwind its rules.

Hong Kong dropped most of its remaining Covid-19 rules in December, but the wearing of masks remains mandatory unless exercising, as well as daily rapid antigen testing for students.

There remains a quota system for travellers between the mainland and Hong Kong and a requirement that they must do a Covid-19 test. Three of Hong Kong’s border checkpoints with China have remained closed.

China announced in December that it would scrap most of its Covid-19 curbs, and it reopened its borders to the world in January, despite a surge in infections.

Hong Kong business groups, diplomats and many residents deplored the city’s Covid-19 rules, saying they threatened its competitiveness and standing as an international financial centre, especially after a period of political tension over pro-democracy protests. - REUTERS

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