Well, Hong Kong seems to be popular doesn’t it! Reports suggest the free tickets given out by Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines in the first tranche under the “ Hello Hong Kong ” scheme were snapped up within minutes in Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. Such was the demand that thousands of would-be travellers got lost in online limbo while trying to get into the airline websites, many eventually logging off in disappointment. This isn’t the first time Cathay has dangled this type of carrot. In 2002, as travel demand began to return after the September 11 terror attacks in the United States the year before, the airline gave away 10,000 return tickets to Hong Kong, where more than 140 restaurants, hotels and shops were waiting with discounts for visitors bearing coupons. Unfortunately, a little more than six months after that promotion finished, a doctor from Guangdong, southern China, checked in to the Metropole Hotel and sparked the city’s first clash with a deadly coronavirus. But let’s not tempt fate … and let’s note that Hong Kong isn’t the only Asian destination making it financially appealing to visit. The government in Taiwan recently approved a Tourism Bureau proposal to give NT$5,000 (US$160) each to 500,000 international visitors over the coming three years. The Taipei Times quotes Tourism Bureau director general Chang Shi-chung as saying, “The money will be given out through multiple tourism promotion events this year, rather than giving it all out at once. “International tourists who are given NT$5,000 will not receive it until they arrive,” he said. “It will be stored in an electronic ticketing card, which can be used to pay for food, accommodation and other travel expenses during their time here.” Chinese jet-setters keen on travelling post-Covid, and they’ll pay a bit extra Travel agencies are also to be given subsidies, for bringing in tour groups, and to address staff shortages in the hotel industry the government will help pay the salaries of new employees for up to a year. “Hoteliers will receive a bonus of NT$5,000 per month for each new staff member they hire,” Chang said. “It will help raise the monthly salary of entry-level hotel employees in Taipei, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Keelung and New Taipei City to NT$33,000 or more.” Taiwan wants to see 6 million international tourists visit this year and is especially interested in those from Japan, South Korea, Europe, North America and countries covered by the New Southbound Policy: regional nations that are not China, essentially. High-Quality of Travel Association chairman Ringo Lee wants to see those arrivals well dispersed. “The government should strive to have more international tourists visit central, southern and eastern Taiwan, not just the north,” he told the Taipei Times. Business Insider reports on another island destination trying to attract international visitors with freebies, this one in Europe. “ Sicily , a historic island in the south of Italy, first launched its ‘See Sicily’ travel promotion two years ago and recently announced its revival for 2023. “Through the voucher programme, visitors who book three nights at an affiliated hotel receive an extra night free of charge. The package also includes 50 per cent off your flight or ferry ride to the island and a free local ‘excursion’ like a walking tour or scuba diving,” explains the news site. There are catches aplenty, however: you have to book the trip through a local travel agency. “The website lists dozens of affiliated travel agents by region, including popular tourist hubs Catania and Palermo. But, as The Washington Post’s travel reporter Andrea Sachs experienced first-hand, that can mean sending dozens of emails (and getting ghosted by the few who answer),” Business Insider writes. Forget Paris, Milan – for accessible European couture, look to Athens “Reading the fine print also reveals that the flight discount is only for trips departing before September 30, with the months of July and August excluded from the deal entirely. And while the promotion is advertised as 50 per cent off, the maximum discount is €100 [US$105] for domestic flights and €200 for international flights.” That’s more hassle than it’s worth, we reckon, despite Sicily’s many charms. We’ll wait until the Seychelles start offering free flights. BA opens the (privacy) door wider British Airways has announced that is will double its flights between Hong Kong and London from seven to 14 per week from this month. On the additional flight - BA32/BA31 - the airline will use Airbus A350-1000 aircraft, which feature BA’s latest business class offering: the Club Suite, the main selling point of which is a sliding door. “We’re proud to be the only airline offering a business cabin suite with a privacy door on a direct service between Hong Kong and London,” says Noella Ferns, BA’s head of sales, Asia Pacific. “The suite has been designed to offer privacy, comfort and space – a place where we know our customers can enjoy work, rest and play.” Play ? Just how private are these Club Suites?