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Hong Kong to hand out 500,000 air tickets to tempt visitors back

Hong Kong's tourism authority is banking on sights like this view from The Peak on Hong Kong Island, together with giving away half a million flights to the city-state over the next six months, to get its COVID-ravaged tourism sector back on track. File photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
1 of 2 | Hong Kong's tourism authority is banking on sights like this view from The Peak on Hong Kong Island, together with giving away half a million flights to the city-state over the next six months, to get its COVID-ravaged tourism sector back on track. File photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Hong Kong tourism authorities said Friday they would give away 500,000 free plane tickets and other prizes as part of a global promotion signaling the reopening of the city-state to visitors.

The ''Hello Hong Kong'' campaign comes after three years of COVID-19 lockdowns and tight restrictions on mixing and travel that saw international visitor numbers plummet.

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All travel restrictions have now been lifted but international arrivals must still test negative before setting out on their journey to Hong Kong, according to the Hong Kong Government's coronavirus web portal.

"Hong Kong is back on the map for global travelers, with more excitement to offer than ever before,'' said Hong Kong Tourism Board chairman Pang Yiu-kai.

''We are extending a biggest welcome to the world through the 'Hello Hong Kong' campaign, inviting friends from everywhere as they return to one of the world's greatest tourism destinations.

''I am confident that Hong Kong's vibrant east-meets-west culture, together with our iconic and brand-new attractions and immersive experiences will attract travelers back for an epic, unforgettable journey."

The plane tickets are part of a $255 million airline support package announced by the government at the start of the pandemic in 2020 -- but which were never used due to lockdowns and travel bans, Dane Cheng, the tourism board's executive director, told CNBC.

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The phased giveaway will see Southeast Asian markets get first dibs, followed by mainland China and North Asia, The giveaway will then be extended to the rest of the world.

Around 80,000 tickets have been reserved for Hong Kong residents.

Hong Kong's Airport Authority anticipates the giveaway will bring in as many as 1.5 million additional visitors from overseas over above the number expected during the six months of the campaign.

As well as the free air tickets, the government will inject $12.7 million to pay for a million city-wide "Hong Kong Goodies" vouchers, worth $12.75 each, that can be redeemed in any of up to 16,000 participating bars, restaurants, and hotels.

A cash voucher that can be used for transport, dining, shopping or at attractions, is also being offered.

The campaign also taps into the latest technology to reach its intended audience worldwide with a series of multimedia video productions, which will be streamed via 3,000 different platforms.

The highlight of the online campaign is likely to be video appearances of Hong Kong celebrities including Cantopop legends Aaron Kwok, Sammi Cheng and Kelly Chen.

The themed videos will also feature social media influencers and Hong Kong Super Fans.

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