Hong Kong launches free flight giveaway but still two years off full tourism recovery

Hong Kong

Hong Kong has announced a massive free flight giveaway as part of its push to reignite its tourism sector after finally rolling back its Covid restrictions.

Hong Kong is giving away 500,000 free airplane tickets for potential visitors from March onwards as part of its “Hello, Hong Kong” campaign.

The tickets will be distributed through Cathay Pacific Airways, budget carrier HK Express and Hong Kong Airlines and will be allocated via a lottery system and two-for-one purchases, with the promotion set to last six months.

But Fred Lam, CEO of Hong Kong’s Airport Authority, said it will take up to two years to return to pre-pandemic numbers.

“We need at least 18 months to two years to return to pre-pandemic levels,” he said.

Hong Kong welcomed 56 million travellers in 2019 before the pandemic, with Lam saying it would reach 80% of its pre-pandemic total by December.

One challenge is getting back the necessary routes, with more than 40 per cent of the airlines that flew to Hong Kong before the pandemic suspending services, according to reports.

“Many airlines have said the flights can only return after March,” Lam said. “Hong Kong may not be their priority.”