Hong Kong has launched an ambitious global promotional drive to entice visitors back to the city after three years of isolation under tough pandemic curbs, featuring 700,000 free air tickets, spending vouchers and special events. Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu unveiled details of his government’s “Hello Hong Kong” campaign in February, highlighting 250 events. It was estimated the first phase of the campaign would cost about HK$100 million (US$12.8 million), according to the Tourism Board. The Post takes a look at how visitors and residents can get the goodies. 1. How and when can I get airline tickets? Authorities expect to give 700,000 free airline tickets to travellers from around the world between March 1 and September. The city’s four carriers – Cathay Pacific Airways, the group’s budget carrier HK Express, Hong Kong Airlines and Greater Bay Airlines – will distribute 65 per cent of them. The remainder will be reserved for related sectors to support inbound tourism and promote the city. About half a million tickets will be reserved for overseas travellers, with about three-quarters earmarked for Asian visitors. The promotion will be carried out in phases, with the first targeting Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia from March 1. The second will target mainland China from April, then northeast Asia, including Korea and Japan, and other markets in May. Airlines would give out the tickets through promotions such as lucky draws, buy-one-get-one-free deals and through games or competitions, Airport Authority CEO Fred Lam Tin-fuk said. Tens of thousands in Singapore try their luck in Hong Kong ticket giveaway The authority said “all related surcharges, fees and taxes would be borne by the winners of the tickets” and all the tickets would be economy class. Cathay’s “World of Winner” campaign began on March 1, offering 80,000 round-trip tickets to residents across Southeast Asia, starting with Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines on March 1, 2 and 3, respectively, followed by Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia in stages two weeks later. Tickets are offered on a first-come, first-served basis, and winners will be announced on the carrier’s campaign website between March 17 and April 5. Only residents of these countries are allowed to join. To be eligible, they must sign up for free membership on Cathay’s website and answer three quiz questions correctly. A member is allowed to submit one entry only. There will be 17,400 round-trip economy-class tickets to Hong Kong from Thailand, 12,500 from Singapore, and 20,400 from the Philippines. There will be 11,510 tickets for Indonesia, 7,000 for Malaysia, 8,800 for Vietnam and 2,390 for those travelling from Cambodia. Hong Kong Airlines began its campaign on March 1, rolling out 6,000 round-trip tickets to Hong Kong from Bangkok, Hanoi and Manila from March 1. The carrier said a limited number of tickets would be issued on a first-come, first-served basis. The company advised interested fliers to plan their travel dates and sign up for its loyalty programme in advance while preparing to pay for surcharges and taxes applicable to their “zero-dollar” tickets. HK Express will reveal details of its free tickets in April, focusing primarily on mainland China and the Greater Bay Area Greater Bay Airlines said it would give out round-trip tickets starting in May from Taipei, then Seoul in July, without mentioning how many would be offered. Another 80,000 tickets will be given to Hong Kong residents in July and the same number to visitors from the Greater Bay Area from April onwards. 2. How do I get the spending vouchers and who is eligible? The Hong Kong Tourism Board started giving away at least 1 million spending vouchers worth HK$100 each under the “Hong Kong Goodies” campaign to welcome back visitors in February. The promotion is on a first-come, first-served basis and will run until December 31. The offer is for visitors staying in Hong Kong for 90 days or less. Arrivals can pick up the vouchers from the five Tourism Board Visitor Centres. They are at the arrivals level at Hong Kong International Airport, Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Concourse, Hong Kong West Kowloon Station Arrival Concourse, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge Hong Kong Port Passenger Clearance Building and Heung Yuen Wai Visitor Centre. They can also pick up the vouchers when booking their trip from selected online travel portals and travel agents. Unless otherwise stated, the coupons are valid for 30 days from the day of acquisition, and expired coupons will not be reissued. To redeem the vouchers, visitors must create an account with the board’s website and will be issued a QR code. Visitors need to provide their passport details and phone number when registering. Visitors can choose between a cash voucher for restaurants, shops or attractions, a free gift at an attraction or museum or a free welcome drink at more than 100 bars, restaurants and hotels in Hong Kong, including The Peninsula, Mandarin Oriental and The Langham. The free gift is from Big Bus Tours, M+ museum, Oriental Pearl Cruise, the Hong Kong Palace Museum and Peak Tram. Visitors will also receive discounts on attractions and discounts on food and transport at more than 16,000 outlets. 3. What else can visitors look for? To further attract travellers to the city, authorities played a promotional video featuring celebrities, including Aaron Kwok Fu-shing, Sammi Cheng Sau-man and Kelly Chen Wai-lam, saying hello to tourists and calling on them to visit. Fans can also try to spot their favourite celebrity in the more than 250 videos featuring stars, including South Korean singer Rain, and business leaders from around the world, highlighting the city’s appeal, which will be placed on 3,000 global platforms, including social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. ‘World’s biggest welcome ever’: Hong Kong launches all-out drive for visitors 4. What events can I look out for in Hong Kong? Several new attractions have opened in the past few years, including the Hong Kong Palace Museum and M+ at the West Kowloon Cultural District. A variety of events are set to take place this year, including the Rugby Sevens from March 31 to April 2 and Art Basel in March, among others. More than 100 international-level exhibitions will include the “Virtually Versailles” exhibition from April to July, an immersive sound and light display about the opulent palace created by France’s Louis XIV, and the first Hong Kong Pop Culture Festival from April to December. 5. Are there any travel restrictions in Hong Kong? The mainland fully reopened its borders with Hong Kong and Macau on February 6, with all Covid-19 restrictions dropped and no quotas imposed on arrivals, from either side, although anyone who had been overseas in the previous week before crossing will need to present a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test taken inside 48 hours before departure. Smiles in the street once again: Hong Kong scraps mask rule after nearly 3 years Vaccination requirements for arrivals will be lifted, but pre-departure rapid antigen tests for overseas travellers will remain to manage infection risks. Hong Kong ended its mask mandate on March 1, although they may be required in hospitals and care homes for the elderly. This story has been updated to reflect the start of the free airline tickets campaign and the changes to Hong Kong’s Covid-19 policies.