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Hong Kong to offer 500,000 free flight tickets to lure back tourists

Virgin Atlantic is dropping its London-Hong Kong route for the first time in 30 years

Helen Coffey
Thursday 06 October 2022 10:33 BST
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Hong Kong has been off limits to tourists for 30 months
Hong Kong has been off limits to tourists for 30 months (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Hong Kong is set to offer 500,000 free airline tickets in a bid to attract visitors back to the city, as Virgin Atlantic announced it would be dropping its route there for the first time in 30 years.

The giveaway, worth HK$2bn (US$254m) in total, is expected to launch in early 2023.

“Once the government announces it will remove all Covid-19 restrictions for inbound travellers, we’ll roll out the advertising campaigns for the free air tickets,” said Dane Cheng Ting-yat, executive director of the Tourism Board, reports South China Morning Post (SCMP).

The Airport Authority will be responsible for distributing the free tickets.

It follows the announcement that the special administrative region would finally be relaxing some of its strict Covid entry rules for arrivals.

After being effectively closed for the past 30 months, Hong Kong ended mandatory hotel quarantine for overseas travellers on 26 September.

The requirement for a pre-departure PCR test was also dropped, although international arrivals must still take a test at the airport.

Visitors are required to monitor their health for the first three days, during which their movements in the city must be limited – they can use public transport from the airport and leave their hotels, but are not allowed to enter bars or restaurants.

Although conceding it was a “significant” step forward, Yonden Lhatoo, chief news editor of the SCMP, said at the time: “The government will not commit to – or does not yet have – a road map or timetable for a full reopening of the city, which many are asking for, considering that the rest of the world has moved on and pretty much started treating Covid-19 like the common flu.”

Virgin Atlantic, which has operated a regular route from London for 30 years, announced on Wednesday that it had made the “difficult decision to suspend our London Heathrow-Hong Kong services and close our Hong Kong office”.

Flights were initially due to resume in March 2023, having been paused since December 2021.

A spokesperson for the airline blamed “significant operational complexities due to the ongoing Russian airspace closure” for the decision to axe the service.

They added: “Our people and customers in Hong Kong have been amazing since we first touched down at the famous Kai Tak Airport in 1994 and since then we’ve provided important connectivity between the UK and Hong Kong for thousands of customers and supported global supply chains through our cargo operations.

“We’re sorry for the disappointment caused to our loyal customers on this route and anyone booked to travel from March 2023, will be offered a refund, voucher or the option to rebook on an alternative Virgin Atlantic route.”

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