Once upon a time, Hong Kong was among the most visited cities in the world. In 2019, even while wracked with political unrest, the city recorded 55.91 million arrivals. According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, 23.75 million of those were overnight visitors who stayed an average of 3.3 nights and spent HK$5,818 (US$750). But numbers can only tell us so much. As the city prepares to again welcome sightseers from its main source market – mainland China – we are left wondering: is Hong Kong a “good” tourist destination? Academics have identified a number of factors that make a place attractive to travellers. Research aggregator ScienceDaily, for example, notes: “Tourists’ expectations when visiting a particular place are related to several features of the chosen destinations: culture, architecture, gastronomy, infrastructure, landscape, events, shopping, etc.” Well, Hong Kong has all of those. The M+ museum finally opens – but will it boost cultural tourism? Culture? Absolutely. It might be cliched, but the city’s history, which includes colonisation by the British, and its position on China’s southern coast have lent it a unique edge, where Western holidays coexist with Eastern festivals. Cantonese opera is celebrated, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra is recognised as one of Asia’s best and now we have M+, a museum of international standing . Then there is Hong Kong’s “intangible cultural heritage”, which officially (according to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department) includes milk tea, bamboo theatres and the dragon dances of Mid-Autumn Festival. Unofficially it comprises neon lights, bamboo scaffolding and personalised vanity plates. Hong Kong has architecture, of course. While much of it is vertically inclined and driven by the demand for housing and enterprise, populating the city streets with uniform, utilitarian, Tetris-style buildings, the skylines on either side of Victoria Harbour are sights to behold. There are a handful of heritage sites to behold, too, lending Hong Kong surprising diversity given its relatively short history as an urban centre and its diminutive size. When it comes to gastronomy, the city does not leave anyone wanting – apart from, possibly, strict vegans with celiac disease, although plant-based options are increasingly popping up. From dim sum to pineapple buns, Hong Kong is justifiably proud of its cuisine. It also serves excellent international options, fusion fare and dishes from all corners of mainland China. In terms of infrastructure, the city’s size makes it incredibly easy to navigate – even farther-flung attractions are easily accessible. We have underground, overground and maritime ways of getting around, and hotels aplenty. Transport is cheap, but accommodation generally is not, even with the pandemic having brought prices down. For a city with such an urban image, Hong Kong delivers in spades when it comes to its landscape. There are hills everywhere and Hongkongers love to hike them – a precious release since Covid-19 closed borders – and there are islands and beaches galore. The heat and humidity of summers in the city can be punishing, though, and pollution often obscures stunning views. The cooler months bring clearer skies and more forgiving temperatures, but then some of the hiking trails become busier than Times Square on a pre-Christmas Saturday. As for events, Hong Kong’s once full calendar feels empty these days. The 2022 Gay Games – Asia’s first – have been postponed until 2023, while the Rugby Sevens, usually a highlight of April or May, have been shifted to November. Hopefully the likes of Clockenflap, Cheung Chau’s bun festival and the Lunar New Year fireworks display will return in 2022. Which brings us to shopping. “From glamorous malls to bustling street markets, Hong Kong lays its claim as Asia’s top shopping destination,” the tourism board boasts, but the glamour, or at least some of the designer brands, has been vacating those malls, and street markets are quieter these days. Of course, businesses hope that as visitors return, so will their trade. Consumer spending in the mainland, however, is down, and that trend might travel. All in all, the city seems to fit the bill of a “good” tourist destination – it has just been lacking tourists, and the annoyances and benefits they bring, for too long. First regular non-stop flight service from Vietnam to US launched History was made on November 28 when a Vietnam Airlines flight from Ho Chi Minh City touched down in San Francisco, launching the first commercial, regularly scheduled, direct service from Vietnam to the United States. “The flight, carrying over 30 passengers, mainly Vietnamese Americans, took off from Tan Son Nhat International Airport in HCMC at 8.57pm Sunday (local time) and landed at San Francisco International Airport at 7.42pm Sunday (local time), after a 13,000-kilometre journey,” reported online newspaper VnExpress. Le Hong Ha, president and CEO of Vietnam Airlines, said: “The success of the inaugural commercial direct flight to the US marked a new milestone for Vietnam Airlines in particular and Vietnam’s aviation in general.” According to Yahoo News, “The company hopes to offer up to seven flights per week once the Covid-19 pandemic is under control. It also has hopes to open up direct flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to Los Angeles in the future.” Bali extends quarantine period for arrivals, suspends visa services Also hoping for more international flights is Bali, the Indonesian resort island that reopened to international tourism in October but has yet to welcome any planes, and therefore many tourists, back. And with the emergence of Omicron, it seems unlikely that will be changing any time soon, as the quarantine period for arrivals has been extended to 10 days and visa services have been suspended from a number of places in which Omicron has been recorded, including Hong Kong.