Arrivals in Hong Kong were down 92.6 per cent in January compared to 2019 figures supplied to HKFP by the Tourism Board.

Cathay Pacific airplane Hong Kong International Airport flight
Photo: GovHK.

Last month, 498,689 people visited the city, whilst 6,784,406 arrived in January 2019 – before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Arrivals – marketsJanuary 2023
New Markets6,553
Total 498,689
Source: Hong Kong Tourism Board. *Includes figures from long-haul, short-haul, and new markets, as well as the Macao SAR.

Nevertheless, the number of arrivals has tripled since December 2022, according to the provisional data supplied by the Tourism Board.

asia's world city police covid-19 covid
Photo: Courtesy of Britt Clennett.

Industry insiders have said that regional airlines are struggling to ramp up flights in what was once an Asian aviation hub. Staff shortages, as well as fee hikes among ground handling companies of 30-100 per cent, have dented Hong Kong’s appeal, they said last month.

City seeks reboot

Hong Kong still enforces a mandatory Covid-19 mask mandate, with residents and visitors risking a HK$5,000 fine if they fail to comply. There is no clear timetable for scrapping the requirement, despite repeated assertions this month by Chief Executive John Lee that the city has “no restrictions whatsoever.”

This month, Hong Kong sought to reboot its status as an international city after years of Covid isolation with the launch of a HK$2 billion campaign. The package of measures included consumption vouchers, lucky draws and free flights.

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The giveaway will first target potential tourists in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore, before expanding beyond the region.

Those arriving from overseas must still show a negative result from a rapid test in order to enter the territory.

Lee’s office has not responded to media enquiries about the ongoing mask mandate.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.