It already seems like ages ago (March) that Hong Kong lifted its COVID mask mandate and Canada removed temporary pre-departure test requirements for air travellers from China, Hong Kong, and Macao. The double move eliminated two major obstacles for the return of travel to the favourite destination for Canadians and prompted the always industrious Hong Kong Tourism Board to ramp up operations to accommodate visitors ready (and able) to return after the long pandemic.
The tourism board had already launched its “Hello Hong Kong” tourism campaign with great fanfare in February to re-introduce itself to the world, including giving away 500,000 air tickets to global tourists in what Chief Executive John Lee called “probably the world’s biggest welcome ever.”
Activations included promotional activities, including lucky draws, “buy one, get one free” promotions, and games – all designed to reignite visitor interest.
In addition to a “we’re open” theme, the campaign, which included high-profile celebrity endorsements, highlighted new attractions, dining, and hotels, and was meant to show that Hong Kong “never rested during the pandemic” – constantly developing and improving its tourism product, even if tourists were unable to go there at the time.
The “fluid” campaign has continued throughout the summer and will carry on into the fall and winter, says HKTB’s Director for the Americas, Michael Lim, who adds the Canadian office is very happy with the reaction to “Hello Hong Kong” and the engagement it has generated, noting that travel agents can still tap into a huge array offers on the HKTB web site, such as free drinks at local bars and “other goodies” to offer their clients as a value-added goodwill gesture.
Lim says that interest amongst Canadians in Hong Kong remains strong, and despite the challenges early in the year, there were close to 75,000 arrivals from this country from January to June.
The HKTB’s current target market in this country includes those with disposition for long-haul travel, along with VFR and luxury travellers, and mainland Chinese transiting through the city due to a lack of direct flights.
Further, that it is a “must-see destination” for travellers enroute to other (Asian) destinations and/or as a destination on its own.
And for business travellers, a city that offers after-hours experiences – from nightlife to attractions to local cultural activities – and is worth an extension of a few more days.
HKTB Senior Trade Marketing Manager Yuen Kan Wong says her office is staging B2B, B2C and B2B2C campaigns in Canada to reiterate that Hong Kong is a “vibrant and exciting destination with lots to offer the visitor – both new experiences and timeless traditions.”
Attention is similarly being bestowed on travel agents through trade campaigns, and agent contests that will feature trip prizes.
“Our objective with the travel trade is to showcase that Hong Kong has a world of new discoveries” says Lim, who notes that “so much has happened during the pandemic.”
For example, “where do people stay?” he asks, pointing out that 15 new hotels have been built (with 84,000 rooms in the city overall).
And there are over 10,000 restaurants, covering all price points and including 77 with Michelin stars.
There are also new tours being developed and new attractions, not least the West Kowloon district, one of the world’s most ambitious cultural projects, which includes a rich variety of arts and cultural facilities that will produce and host world-class exhibitions, performances, and arts and cultural events.
The Xiqu Centre, Freespace, the Art Park, and M+ are already open to the public, along with the district’s crown jewel, the Hong Kong Palace Museum, which presents over 900 priceless treasures from the Palace Museum – many of them on display in Hong Kong for the first time, while others have never been shown to the public before.
Canadians should also know that Hong Kong is more than just an urban destination, says Lim, with wellness and outdoor options (like hiking) aplenty, spread across 260 islands. There’s even a UNESCO Global Geopark.
And better still, he points out, everything is within an hour’s reach, and accessible by affordable transit.
Importantly, the HKTB director points out that Canadians can easily get to Hong Kong with service from Cathay Pacific and Air Canada. The former offers 11 weekly flights from Toronto and eight from Vancouver (effective Sept.), while Canada’s national carrier provides seven per week from YVR.
As capacity resumes, says Yuen, there are even more “big plans in the pipeline” for Hong Kong in Canada.
And all of them, adds Lim, will continue to be designed to “be in front of our audience, and to drive business – to have people see Hong Kong and say, ‘I want to go there!’”
To help keep on top of developments in Hong Kong, agents are recommended to sign up to receive the monthly HKTB Canada newsletter. Register here: forms.office.com/r/FP7BDJwqxD.
First published at Travel Industry Today