DestinationsTourism players focus on driving domestic tourism to meet demand over the festive period.

Business as usual for Hong Kong

Hong Kong Tourism Board offers a variety of perspectives for tourism players to market its offerings.
Hong Kong Tourism Board offers a variety of perspectives for tourism players to market its offerings. Photo Credit: gettyimages/

Hong Kong stays the course and it’s full steam ahead for a locally focused Christmas season. Although borders remain closed and 14- to 21-day quarantine restrictions are unchanged, the SAR is working towards a gradual reopening, priority being China-Hong Kong borders before international travel opens up next year.

Travel operators and hotel groups had already made a sharp pivot to domestic tourism over a year ago to respond to the initial Covid-19 disruption. With Christmas and Lunar New Year holidays around the corner, major players are maintaining a domestic business as usual approach, and retail outlets have brought back the proverbial mall Santa and launched glittery holiday-themed displays. 

“[We] will maintain [our] agile approach with flexible strategies in handling the volatile pandemic situation to drive the recovery of the tourism industry,” said a spokesperson for Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB). 

The HKTB had implemented a series of locally-focused promotions to support the travel sector through domestic consumption in 2020, and it will continue them for the foreseeable future. There are no plans to press pause on its overseas campaigns, using the promotions as a route to showing off the city’s tourism offerings to future visitors.

“We continue to work closely with industry members … to rebuild the local ambience by encouraging locals to be the city’s own tourists,” the spokesperson continued. "In visitor source markets, the HKTB also strives to maintain Hong Kong’s visibility globally through new tourism appeals and perspectives. At the same time, HKTB has worked unceasingly with various partners to gear up for tourism resumption by enhancing hygiene and service standards, and strengthening trade partnerships.”

On the ground, however, the immediate fear was that Omicron would throw a wrench into holiday dining plans and the sustaining staycations for local hotel operators, whose average 47% occupancy climbs on weekends and holidays. That may be the case for travellers in some quarters, but Hong Kong’s stringent strategy has largely insulated the local community.

“It has allowed families to lead relatively normal lives here and for most to be able to enjoy the festive season more normally than last year while taking mandated precautions,” says Sander Looijen, Cluster GM, Sheraton Hong Kong Tung Chung and the new Four Points by Sheraton Hong Kong Tung Chung, designated as a quarantine hotel

Looijen points to Sheratons’s regular training to back up its state-of-the-art bio-protocols in keeping the hotels incident-free and safe. Among the Sheraton’s holiday promotions for 2021 include a New Year celebration, complete with Champagne countdown party.

Adam Hipp, MD of Cordis, Hong Kong, agrees, stating Cordis has also stepped up health and safety training and precautions in light of both higher traffic and Omicron. But optimism remains for the holiday period.  

“We are receiving more bookings and enquiries. Local guests are especially interested in our creative staycations packages, as well as dining in our restaurants,” says Hipp. 

Cordis has partnered the popular Ocean Park for a family-friendly staycation that includes admission to the park for giant panda education programmes, children’s amenities and a donation to the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation.

At sea, cruise operators were finally able to tap into the staycation sector in July. After an incident-free year of sailing from Singapore and Taiwan, Genting launched its “Staycation at Sea” packages on Dream Cruises’ Genting Dream, which welcomed over 50,000 guests in the five months since. The cruise line has held Oktoberfest cruises as well as Wine & Dine Festival programmes held in partnership with the annual onshore event. 

The operator’s current contingency is to follow the health department regulations that have gotten it back on the high seas. While recognising the Covid-19 situation is a fluid one, Dream Cruises’ holiday plans remain unchanged.

“Dream Cruises ’upcoming itineraries for A Nordic Christmas Adventure and further for Chinese New Year will be continuing as scheduled,” said a spokesperson for Genting Cruise Lines. The package includes live Christmas-themed shows, traditional dining and a Christmas market. 

“Dream Cruises remains vigilant with its health and hygiene guidelines and protocols and continues to work with Hong Kong authorities to ensure we are up-to-date with the latest developments and policies.”

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