Hong Kong’s tourism industry is showing tentative signs of recovery as the country has successfully contained the Covid-19 pandemic and the nationwide vaccine rollout gaining momentum.
As of August 3, Hong Kong had experienced a 57-day streak of zero locally transmitted Covid-19 cases. Meanwhile, nearly 50% of the city’s population received their first dose of the vaccine.
Hong Kong cruise operations resumed with more than 1,000 passengers joining Genting Dream’s maiden voyage on July 30. Meanwhile, the EU has placed the city on a safe list, with some states allowing travel without quarantine for vaccinated visitors to Hong Kong.
Almost 18 months after the pandemic cut off inbound and outbound travel, local agency Miramar Travel resumed operations overseas, sending its first small private group to Germany for a 10-day trip last month, a shared general manager Alex Lee.
Members of the group saw their quarantine period shortened from 14 to seven days, with the presentation of a positive serological antibody test, he added.
Lee shared that people like to travel to long-haul destinations, especially to places without quarantine. “We have received inquiries about itineraries longer than 20 days – most of them are from retired civil servants who travel several times a year but have been stranded (in Hong Kong) for a year and a half, so the demand is there. It’s kind of a ‘journey of revenge’, ”he said.
“This segment will be our target from the start because they have money and time to spend. As long as we sort the routes and prices, they’re good to go.
Small-group trips and single-destination trips are also gaining popularity among travelers, Lee observed. “Our customers prefer not to travel with someone they don’t know in a tour group,” he said.
Additionally, more and more travelers are looking for boutique hotels and country itineraries during city breaks and five-star properties, according to Lee. He also noted that these new preferences mean customers would have to shell out 30% more than regular travel prices.
“Fortunately, our suppliers in Europe could deploy a smaller 15-19 seat coach to accommodate (smaller groups of tourists),” he said, adding that this type of vehicle was not used for group travel to Europe until the increasing demand manifests itself among mainland China. travelers for private group trips to the mainland a few years ago.
Travel recovery forecasts were mixed among issuing operators in Hong Kong.
Regina Mak, Managing Director of Jointwell Holidays, specializing in European itineraries for small groups, said TTG Asia: “The pent-up demand will lead to the rebound and consumers accept that new modes of travel result in higher costs in terms of plane tickets, hotels, guides and coaches. “
However, the chairman of the Hong Kong Outbound Tour Operators’ Association, Johnny So, said Hong Kong people would be discouraged from traveling unless they were exempted from quarantine when they returned home.
“In addition, international air links are still limited and some destinations are no longer covered,” he said, adding that people could also avoid travel due to the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
He added that the only hope for reviving tourism in Hong Kong is for the city to reopen its borders with China, as mainland Chinese travelers are the “bread and butter of inbound and outbound travel.”
As for the entrances, there is no light at the end of the tunnel yet, especially with the government’s announcement that it will tighten border control measures for inbound travelers from August 9, considering recent cases of imported Delta variant.
Hong Kong Travel Agents Association consultant Richard Willis noted that within the industry, incoming business has been hit the hardest, with several obstacles standing in the way of recovery.
He clarified: “As the most recent cases of Covid-19 are imported, the government remains very cautious (regarding border controls). We have a strict quarantine rule, so if we want to reactivate inbound traffic in the future, it is necessary to recognize some vaccine passports. “
He also noted that many long-haul visitors to Hong Kong choose to travel to multiple destinations in the region, so travel restrictions in other parts of Asia will impact inbound demand. For short-haul, the main deterrent to travel to Hong Kong is that travelers must serve quarantine upon return to their home country. Therefore, the key to boosting tourism will depend on relaxing the quarantine rules imposed by governments.
Willis said: “The pent-up demand is there and I see Asians in particular want to travel. However, there is still too much uncertainty at this point and people generally want to travel to their own region at this time. We hope the borders will reopen soon – not just Hong Kong’s but also the region’s, as many people take multi-destination trips. “