By The Financial District
Tourism-Starved HK Gives Away 500K Plane Tickets
Hong Kong is handing out 500,000 airline tickets to foreign tourists in a global publicity push aimed at rebuilding an image battered by strict virus curbs and crackdowns on civil liberties, Frances Cheung and Pak Yiu reported for Nikkei Asia.
Photo Insert: The financial hub's economy, which shrank a worse-than-expected 3.5% last year, suffered badly from the loss of tourism spending.
The giveaway will kick off on March 1 with the free flights distributed through travel agents and overseas offices of Hong Kong's airlines in what officials on Thursday called the city's "biggest welcome" to foreign and mainland Chinese visitors.
More than 250 events will be held this year as part of the broader campaign, including music festival Clockenflap, Art Basel and the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament next month.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan said it was crucial to "show Hong Kong's new advantages" after three years of harsh COVID-19 measures brought tourism to a halt and eroded business confidence.
"Our priority is that people around the world have a correct understanding of Hong Kong," Chan said at the launch of the 'Hello Hong Kong' publicity campaign.
The financial hub's economy, which shrank a worse-than-expected 3.5% last year, suffered badly from the loss of tourism spending. Before the pandemic, Hong Kong drew tens of millions of visitors annually and it hosted one of the world's busiest airports.
But those numbers plummeted after the city isolated itself from the world with strict virus rules, including a three-week mandatory quarantine. The city's reputation also worsened after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law in mid-2020 in response to mass democracy protests the previous year.
For this reason, tourists have avoided Hong Kong like the plague and 40% of expatriates left. Hong Kong is also notorious for handling heroin shipments from the Golden Triangle, principally from Myanmar, the world’s second-biggest opium producer.
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