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Crowds by the waterfront in Singapore on July 9. Photo: Bloomberg

LettersThe world won’t stand still for Hong Kong – just look at the crowds flocking to Singapore instead

  • Readers discuss the dearth of tourists in Hong Kong compared with other thriving hubs, the undersupply of quarantine hotel rooms, and the inflexible booking systems that are costing the public
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I believe those in government who design the policies to handle Covid-19 have the best intentions, but they really need to look at the world outside for themselves.

One of Hong Kong’s edges over other Asian cities was its connectivity to the world; the airport was our pride. It’s one of the reasons Hong Kong could be an aviation and financial hub.

I just returned from a trip to Singapore, my first trip in two-and-a-half years.

In Hong Kong, our once busy, humming airport was eerily quiet and empty. The airport in Singapore was as it was when I last visited in 2019. The whole place was buzzing, filled with travellers, holiday seekers, businesspeople and transit passengers. Life is back to normal in Singapore.
People were disciplined, with many wearing their masks outdoors even though they are only mandatory indoors. I learned of the many high-powered business and finance people who have relocated there from Hong Kong because of our strict Covid-19 restrictions which are out of step with the rest of the world.

The scene when I landed back in Hong Kong was a shock. The gate areas were filled with metal barriers and staff in protective gear to stream arrivals. Different stations were set up all over the place; I needed to go up and down escalators and take the airport terminal train twice. The whole process took more than two hours before I boarded the bus to my quarantine hotel.

I saw an elderly couple, and felt sorry that they had to go through this to enter Hong Kong.

I understand the government wants to protect people and avoid a collapse of the health system, as when we were hit by the fifth wave. But now most of the population is vaccinated and protected. People of the world are travelling again, not just for business and studies, but also for holidays and to visit families and friends. The situation in Hong Kong is morale-sapping for its residents.

I love Hong Kong dearly, and it is sad to see what is happening when things can be turned around.

I urge the government not to be overconfident that the world will wait for Hong Kong to open up at an unknown time. The world keeps turning; it stops for no one. If Hong Kong sticks to these strict entry requirements, it will be too late, no maybes about it.

B. Kwan, North Point

Supply of quarantine rooms falls woefully short

The total supply of quarantine hotel rooms in Hong Kong for August to October is about 25,000. This is inadequate. The government’s measures to stop scalping will not solve the quarantine hotel supply problem.

Currently there is a seven-day quarantine requirement. So assuming an even spread of arrivals, the capacity allows for 3,571 people to arrive per day.

Hong Kong airport on July 13 had about 40 aircraft arrivals, and more are being added. Given the quarantine capacity, on average, each aircraft can only have around 100 people per flight. However, long-haul aircraft can normally accommodate around 300 people.

As the supply of flights increases along with passenger demand, the number of hotel rooms will be totally inadequate. If aircraft are full, then about 75,000 rooms are needed. Similarly, double the number of flights requires double the number of rooms.

The only practical solution is to remove the hotel quarantine requirement.

Saki A. Chatzichristidis, Discovery Bay

Quarantine hotel rules add to the problem

A family emergency required my wife and I to travel to our home in India in July-August. After great difficulty, we managed to book a quarantine room, but only after adjusting our travel plans, extending our stay in India to five weeks instead of one to suit the availability of the hotel room.

Thankfully, the emergency was averted and our travel plans had to be cancelled soon after. We tried to cancel or postpone our hotel booking, and even offered to find alternative occupants. The hotel would not entertain any of our requests, pointing to the terms of the booking which allow for no change or cancellation whatsoever.

With thousands of travellers struggling to find a quarantine room to travel to Hong Kong, such trade practices create artificial scarcity.

It is mind-boggling that the government would allow the hapless public to be exploited in this manner. The new administration should look into this matter urgently and take suitable remedial action.

Dhanada K Mishra, Sai Kung