Hong Kong’s tourism industry is struggling to recover after the COVID-19 pandemic forced many residents and expats to leave. The city’s population declined by 0.9% in 2020, and thousands of residents relocated overseas permanently due to strict pandemic measures, as well as a national security law implemented after pro-democracy protests in 2019. While the city has made an effort to revive tourism with giveaways and the lifting of pandemic restrictions, only 500,000 visitors arrived in January 2022, compared to 6.8 million in January 2019. The decline in tourism has also hit the city’s convention and exhibition centre, which marked its first full house since the pandemic for a pair of jewellery and gem shows earlier this month. Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific Airways is operating at 50% of its pre-pandemic passenger flight capacity, and it forecasts that figure to be 70% by the end of this year. The airline does not expect to be at pre-pandemic levels until the end of 2024.

Efforts to Revive Tourism

The Hong Kong government is making an all-out effort to revive the city’s tourism industry by attracting businesspeople and tourists back, after the city was largely closed off to the world for nearly three years. It unveiled a giveaway for half a million airline tickets to bring in visitors, and authorities lifted the last of the pandemic restrictions, including mandatory face masks.

Events to Draw Tourists

Three major events will test the city’s rebound, namely the Art Basel Hong Kong, the Hong Kong International Film Festival, and the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens tournament, all of which traditionally draw thousands of foreign visitors. These events were canceled over the past three years due to the pandemic. The visual art community in Hong Kong is excited about the upcoming Art Basel show, which had a record attendance of 88,000 visitors in 2019. The fair has been working closely with the art sector to welcome back an international audience to Hong Kong. The Hong Kong International Film Festival and its related programs are expected to draw filmmakers and film-industry executives from across Asia and around the world. The Rugby Sevens, which normally takes place in the spring, held its first tournament since the pandemic began in November 2021 when social distancing measures were still in place.

Challenges Ahead

Despite efforts to revive tourism, challenges remain. The decline in tourism has hit the city’s convention and exhibition centre, which has been virtually empty for the past few years. Cathay Pacific Airways is operating at half of its pre-pandemic passenger flight capacity and does not expect to return to pre-pandemic levels until the end of 2024. Training pilots and cabin crew, many of whom left the airline over the past three years, and getting long-parked jets back into operation will take time. Although foreign visitors are now allowed to enter Hong Kong, the city’s strict measures during the pandemic, including mandatory quarantine for up to 21 days, may deter some potential tourists.