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Hong Kong Expecting Influx of Tourists From Mainland China

Hong Kong, one of the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists, is eagerly awaiting an influx of visitors as mainland China prepares to lift COVID-19 travel restrictions from 8 January. and anxiously preparing.

Of the 154 million outbound Chinese travelers in 2019, before the outbreak of COVID-19, more than a third (36%) visited Hong Kong, according to World Bank and Hong Kong Tourism Board statistics. I was. The SAR is a popular travel destination due to its proximity, popular Cantonese cuisine, and abundant shopping.

“There will be more people coming to Hong Kong from the mainland,” said Cloris. “Some people will come here for tourism,” he said. He is Yip, a travel agency based in Hong Kong. “It’s good for Hong Kong. The past three years have been very tough for the Hong Kong travel industry.”

Chinese authorities announced on Monday that they will no longer require quarantine for incoming travelers from 8 January and will start accepting applications from Chinese citizens for overseas travel passports and travel permits to Hong Kong and Macau. Chief Executive John Lee announced on Tuesday that Hong Kong will finally open up completely from Wednesday, ending some of the world’s toughest COVID-19 measures.

Lee said Hong Kong will cancel mandatory PCR tests, vaccine pass schemes, close contact quarantine requirements and social distancing measures for arriving travelers.

“Visitors from overseas, the mainland, Macau and Taiwan will no longer have to undergo mandatory PCR tests upon arrival in Hong Kong,” Lee said.

The government had already canceled the quarantine requirements for the arrival in late September. The only remaining measure is mask mandates.

The move is expected to bring back much-needed Chinese tourists starting next month during the Chinese New Year holidays.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism accounted for 4.5% of Hong Kong’s GDP, employing about 257,000 people and accounting for about 6.6% of total employment, according to government statistics. Of her 65 million tourists who visited Hong Kong in 2018, 78% (51 million) were mainlanders.

“The travel industry is very excited about this long-awaited news,” the Hong Kong Travel Industry Council said in a statement. “The new measures will allow exchanges between Hong Kong and other places to be restored in an orderly manner, allowing various stakeholders in the industry such as travel agencies, hotels, cross-border buses and airlines to After years of hardships, the tourism industry can see the light of day.After three years of epidemics, the tourism industry can move towards a real recovery.”

Without Chinese tourists, businesses go bankrupt or shrink. To earn a living, Yip and other travel agents had to take less profitable government-provided jobs, such as checking identity documents and keeping order at vaccination centers.

“Many travel agencies are no longer open.

So many travel agents, hotels, retailers, etc. are allowed to leave the mainland and don’t have to waste time and money on quarantine. Welcome mainland people like boyfriends. their return.

A sophomore in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang, she has spent the past year and a half on a quarantined campus. Because of her one positive case, she was confined to her dorm room, which she shared with three of her roommates, for two weeks in November.

“We felt very claustrophobic. All we could do was stay in our room. The only other place we could go was the toilet. We couldn’t even take a shower.” said Zhao.

Accustomed to traveling abroad once or twice a year, she is excited to finally be able to travel again.

“We’ve been stuck here for the past three years and it’s been a while since we played,” said Zhao. “I want to go to Macau.

People wearing masks walk the streets of Hong Kong, China, December 28, 2022.

People wearing masks walk the streets of Hong Kong, China, December 28, 2022.

She and her boyfriend expect long lines when applying for visit permits.

“Many people tested positive in Shenyang, but they got better in a week or two. It’s like the flu. No one is afraid anymore. Everyone wants to go out.” she said.

Mainland students studying in Hong Kong also welcomed China’s lifting of COVID-19 measures.

“I’m very happy because I had to spend a lot of money on quarantine hotels and PCR tests every time I went home,” Eric Zhang said.

The hotel where he quarantined tried to keep him and other guests staying longer than the mandated five days so they could charge more money.

“It was only after we complained to the authorities that they let us go,” Jan said. “Now that the quarantine requirements have been lifted, I can easily visit my parents and grandmothers.”

caution and concern

However, some Hong Kong residents wait until the mainland’s latest COVID-19 outbreak subsides before visiting. Infections surged after China eased many of her COVID-19 restrictions on Dec. 7.

“There is no way to go to the mainland now,” said Samuel Lau, a stockbroker who crossed the border four times a month for sightseeing and meeting clients. “It will be a month or two before I go.”

But Lau looks forward to visiting the mainland again.

“I like going there because China is developing so fast. It doesn’t make sense to just hear people talk about the changes in China. I like to see the development of cities, from living in the said Lau.

I also want to rent an electric car on the street using an app on my smartphone.

But as Chinese tourists return to Hong Kong, COVID-19 cases will rise, putting pressure on local hospitals already understaffed by the recent spike in COVID-19 and winter flu infections, he said. I have a concern.

Others worry that mainland Chinese tourists will buy all their medicines from drugstores and pay large sums of money to private clinics for foreign vaccines that are not available to mainland Chinese.

Hong Kong is ready for business, official says

Chief Executive Li reassured the public that Hong Kong was ready for reopening, citing high vaccination rates, sufficient supplies of anti-infectives and experienced medical workers. He also said 2.5 million people had already acquired immunity from previous infections.

Unlike Japan, India and Taiwan, Hong Kong tested negative after mainland visitors arrived in the city, despite concerns that a new lethal variant developed in China could spread to Hong Kong. You do not need to present your PCR test results.

Other inbound travelers to Hong Kong are only required to present negative results of a PCR test performed within 48 hours or a rapid antigen test (RAT) performed within 24 hours prior to arrival in Hong Kong .

“Nothing is impossible, but it’s highly unlikely because the virus has already mutated into a milder strain,” said Professor Jin Dong-Yan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong, in December. He told VOA in the middle of the day.

Opening Hong Kong’s borders makes sense for people like Yip.

Last year, tourist numbers dropped to just 91,000. After the Hong Kong government shortened and later canceled quarantines for arrivals, it rose to 328,000 this year, but it’s still a fraction of previous numbers.

“Hong Kong needs to get back on its feet. We need to follow in the footsteps of the rest of the world,” Yip said.

However, according to the Travel Industry Council, the tourism industry will take time to recover and it will take a long time to return to pre-pandemic levels.