Dane Cheng Ting-yat, Chief Executive, Hong Kong Tourism Board - Photo: May Tse/SCMP
Hong Kong witnesses its tourism industry collapse as visitor arrivals fall nearly 100pc in April due to the coronavirus pandemic - Photo: May Tse/ SCMP
Dhaka: Now is the right time for Hong Kong to form “travel bubbles” with regional neighbours who have seen similar success in containing the coronavirus outbreak in an effort to bring back visitors who stopped travelling because of health concerns.
Dane Cheng Ting-yat, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Tourism Board said this on May 29 as he called on the government to pursue the establishment of such connections with short-haul markets such as Macau, South Korea, Thailand and even mainland China.
With arrivals falling nearly 100 per cent to 4,100 in April against the same period last year, the scheme could be a way to bring back travellers, Cheng said.
Nations such as Australia and New Zealand are already discussing forming a travel bubble. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have struck an arrangement allowing residents to travel freely without undergoing quarantine.
As part of a near-term strategy to revive tourism, Cheng said the board would introduce 11,000 enticements covering food, shopping, hotels and attractions, among others, from the middle of June in a campaign called “Hello Hong Kong”.
“If the promotions go well, we will extend it to overseas travellers in the next stage,” he said, adding the campaign could cost about USD 5.15 million.
On whether Beijing’s sudden proposal to enact a national security law in Hong Kong would worsen social unrest that began last year, Cheng said, “Overseas visitors’ major concern is still about the development and containment of the coronavirus pandemic. We need to deal with this first.”
A spokeswoman for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said it was preparing to relaunch Hong Kong’s tourism sector after assessing the advice from health authorities, and working out quarantine, transportation and immigration arrangements with overseas markets.
Hong Kong recorded six new COVID-19 cases on June 2, taking the tally to 1,095. Of which, only four died.
The city on average recorded fewer than 100 arrivals a day in the first four months of this year compared with the roughly 200,000 during normal times. Global travel has been grounded to a halt, with more than 65 airlines cutting about 95 per cent of flights in April and May.
It would take a longer time for Hong Kong tourism to recover as many long-haul flights are not expected to resume until the fourth quarter of this year, Cheng concluded.