(CNN) — Hong Kong attracted about 56 million visitors a year before the pandemic and now the popular destination is taking significant steps to win back tourists after more than two years of some of the world’s toughest travel restrictions.
Just days after repealing the long-standing mandatory hotel quarantine requirement, Hong Kong has confirmed its plans to give away half a million plane tickets in a bid to boost tourism.
“In 2020, Airport Authority Hong Kong pre-purchased about 500,000 air tickets from the area’s domestic airlines as part of an aid package to support the airline industry,” the spokesperson said.
“The purchase serves to inject liquidity into the airlines upfront, while the tickets will be given away to global visitors and Hong Kong residents in the market recovery campaign.”
Travelers in the departure hall of Hong Kong International Airport on September 26.
Further details will be announced once the relevant arrangements are made with airlines, they said.
Hong Kong has been largely cut off from the rest of the world due to Covid-19 quarantine rules, which at one point required inbound travelers to spend 21 days in a hotel room at their own expense, with access only to Hong Kong residents.
Cathay Pacific, the city’s flag carrier, at one point set up a virtual “waiting room” to access its website, while online travel booking service Expedia saw a ninefold increase in its search for flights from Hong Kong to Tokyo and a 11-fold for flights from Hong Kong to Osaka — although interest in flights to Hong Kong remained unchanged, according to Lavinia Rajaram, Expedia’s head of public relations for Asia.
“We hope to give the maximum scope to reconnect Hong Kong and revitalize our economy,” Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee said at a news conference on Friday.
But while the hotel’s quarantine may have been lifted, visitors to Hong Kong before and after arrival are still faced with different rules and restrictions.
Incoming international travelers must present a pre-flight vaccination certificate, as well as a negative PCR test and rapid antigen test, before entering.
Once admitted, visitors must undergo a three-day self-monitoring period, during which time they are not allowed to eat in restaurants or visit bars.
Visitors are also required to perform PCR testing on days 2, 4 and 6 after arrival and a rapid antigen test every day for seven days.
CNN’s Maggie Hiufu Wong, Simone McCarthy, Kathleen Magramo and Jake Kwon also contributed to this report