Hong Kong Is Giving Away 500,000 Free Plane Tickets

The city is putting a new plan into action to get tourism back to its pre-pandemic levels.

Editor's Note: We know COVID-19 is continuing to impact your travel plans. Should you travel now, be sure to familiarize yourself with the CDC's latest guidance on domestic and international travel as well as local requirements, protocols, and restrictions for both your destination upon your arrival and your home city upon your return. Be safe out there.

Pandemic-era travel restrictions are slowly lifting around the world, perhaps most shockingly in Hong Kong. Over the past few years, China has been incredibly strict with its quarantine restrictions, for residents and visitors alike.

Now, the city is welcoming international travelers back and has a plan to entice them to book a visit.

Two years ago, the Airport Authority of Hong Kong announced plans to give away 500,000 flight tickets, worth around $254.8 million, to tourists and local residents. This week, the city announced it is ready to put that plan into action.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board is currently working out arrangements with international airlines and more details will be announced once everything has been nailed down, which should hopefully be soon.

This reopening marks a big change from prior policies. In an earlier stage of the pandemic, the city of Hong Kong required incoming travelers to spend 21 days in a hotel room upon their arrival. Only native residents were permitted entry. Since then, the quarantine period was reduced down to seven days and then eventually to three before being completely scrapped altogether on September 26.

Despite these changes, tourism has been slow to return to the big city. About 56 million people visited Hong Kong in 2019, according to Euromonitor International. At the time, the market research firm also ranked the city number one for global arrivals.

Since then, numbers have dropped drastically. The Hong Kong Tourism Board told the Taipai Times that it recorded just 76,000 arrivals in the first half of this year, down from 65 million for all of 2018.

Those wishing to visit Hong Kong still have a few rules to follow. Incoming travelers are required to submit a pre-flight vaccination certificate, as well as a negative PCR test and rapid antigen test, all before takeoff.

Once they've landed, visitors are required to undergo a three-day self-monitoring period. During that time, all restaurants and bars are off limits.

But that's not all, visitors will also need to complete a PCR test two days after they land, another four days later, and yet another six days later. If that's not enough testing for you, no need to worry, you'll also have to submit a rapid antigen test every day for seven days.

Editor's Note: We know COVID-19 is continuing to impact your travel plans. Should you travel now, be sure to familiarize yourself with the CDC's latest guidance on domestic and international travel as well as local requirements, protocols, and restrictions for both your destination upon your arrival and your home city upon your return. Be safe out there.

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Jeremy Porr is a News Writer at Thrillist. Follow Jeremy on Instagram.