Hong Kong’s government has announced plans to give away 500,000 free airline tickets as part of efforts to revive its tourism industry and attract visitors back to the city, CNN reports.
The “Hello Hong Kong” initiative was unveiled on Thursday but has been in the works for over two years.
Tickets will be spread out among the city’s three airlines — flag carrier Cathay Pacific, HK Express and Hongkong Airlines. The 500,000 tickets cost the city about $254.8 million in total.
Travelers keen to travel to Hong Kong can visit the World of Winners splash page starting March 1 to enter their names into the flight ticket lottery.
The tickets will be allocated in three waves: from March 1 to people across Southeast Asia, from April 1 to people living in mainland China and from May 1 to residents in the rest of the world.
Hong Kong was slow and cautious in its approach to the coronavirus pandemic.
The city began to cancel in-person events in January 2020 when the first cases of patients exhibiting symptoms of a new flu-like disease were reported in Wuhan, China.
Traveling in and out of Hong Kong was challenging and expensive during the pandemic. Strict quarantines, which peaked at 21 days of isolation, and requirements for multiple PCR tests kept out the majority of travelers.
Before the pandemic, Hong Kong saw 56 million visitors in a typical year. By 2022, that number had fallen to about 100,000.
And it wasn’t only foreign tourists staying away. The financial hub experienced its largest population drop since 1961, going down 1.6%.