Dubai: UAE residents wishing to travel to Hong Kong may be able to avail of a 'one-plus-one-free' scheme for air tickets as part of the city’s new tourism drive.
Weeks after the government of Hong Kong launched its ‘Hello Hong Kong’ global campaign that gives away 500,000 free air tickets, a top official with the Hong Kong government is inviting UAE travellers to take advantage of the scheme. “It would probably be a 'buy one, get one free' lucky draw promotion," said Algernon Yau Ying Wah, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development.
"For example, if you’re buying a ticket from Dubai, the return ticket from Hong Kong would be free under certain conditions. It is subject to what the tourism board decides.”
As the tickets are being distributed as part of a global campaign, Yau is hopeful that GCC and the Middle East countries will also come under the spotlight. The 500,000 tickets cost the city about $254.8 million in total.
Yau spoke to Gulf News during the sidelines of the UAE - Hong Kong SAR Business Forum event, organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC). A delegation of business leaders and principal officials from Hong Kong, led by the city’s Chief Executive, John Lee, visited the UAE last week after they toured Saudi Arabia.
‘Hello Hong Kong’ campaign
Pre-pandemic, Hong Kong would see 56 million visitors in a typical year. By 2022, that number had fallen to about 100,000. Strict quarantine rules peaked at 21 days of isolation, and requirements for multiple PCR tests kept out a majority of travellers.
However, Hong Kong, one of Asia’s biggest business financial and tourism hubs, is hoping to lure tourists back. Yau said: “There is no specific allocation for the air tickets. It is open to visitors from all countries. The city’s tourism board and airport authority will coordinate with airlines to manage the distribution of those tickets.”
Tickets will be spread out among the city’s three airlines – flag-carrier Cathay Pacific, HK Express and Hong Kong Airlines. Alternatively, UAE travellers can visit the ‘World of Winners’ web page starting March 1 to enter their names for the flight ticket lottery.
Tickets will be allocated in three waves: from March 1 to people across Southeast Asia, from April 1 to people living in mainland China, and from May 1 to residents in the rest of the world.
Dubai’s flagship carrier, Emirates, operates daily flights to Hong Kong on its Boeing 777 with a brief stopover at Bangkok. The airline will also restart direct services to Hong Kong aboard its A380 superjumbo from March 29. Economy class fares are priced at Dh3,775 on Emirates, and Cathay Pacific fares are Dh4,135 for departure on March 30.
Hong Kong post-pandemic
“Hong Kong has always had a close relationship with the GCC,” said Yau, with pre-pandemic trade at about $60 billion. “With UAE alone, trade stood at $12.8 billion - that was the record pre-Covid. Now, Hong Kong has opened up once again, and we enjoy free movement between Hong Kong and mainland China.”
Fuelled by the next era of innovation, Hong Kong is inviting foreign investment from the UAE and other Gulf countries to bolster non-oil trade. During a visit last week, the Hong Kong delegation signed multiple MoUs with UAE-based government and private entities to boost partnership outside of the traditional trade sectors. Lee also said a ‘free trade agreement’ (FTA) is the next ‘logical step’ in Hong Kong-UAE relations.
“We have established dialogue with the Emirates and understood the needs and requirements of GCC governments,” said Yau. “Sectors such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and technology are something we are looking to forge partnerships in. Our R&D is solid."
The city is also planning to incentivise international students to stay and work in Hong Kong after graduation. “After their study, we will give them a visa for two years to work in Hong Kong,” he added.