Hong Kong’s shortened one-week quarantine rule for vaccinated travellers, down from 21 days previously, is proving to be a breath of fresh air for the city's travel-starved residents and tourism operators.
From just about every angle — cost, time, sanity — one week in a hotel suddenly seems quite manageable if it means escaping the city on a long-awaited break.
The seven-day quarantine measures for inbound travellers include fully vaccinated Hong Kong residents, as well as fully vaccinated visitors from China, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand, replacing the 21-day mandatory rule for non-vaccinated residents.
The significantly fewer days required for quarantine is having a positive effect on Hong Kongers' appetite for outbound travel, according to travel agents.
“After many months of having mandatory 21-day quarantine on return to the city, seven days is like a walk in the park," said Lucy Jackson, co-founder and director of Lightfoot Travel. “From just about every angle — cost, time, sanity — one week in a hotel suddenly seems quite manageable if it means escaping the city on a long-awaited break.”
Europe is an especially popular destination for Hong Kong travellers, with Iceland, Greece and Spain topping the list, noted Jackson. Overseas travel, however, is still hard for families with younger children, as the seven-day rule only applies to vaccinated adults.
“Some of our clients have family members based in the UK and so they are meeting in third countries that allow quarantine-free entry due to the current travel ban for those returning to Hong Kong from the UK," said Jackson.
Hong Kong recently added the UK to the "extremely high risk" list, and has banned all flights from the country to curb the spread of the Delta variant.
Like Jackson, Charlotte Travel’s founder Charlotte Harris has been handling the logistics for many of her clients to return to Hong Kong via a third country, such as Dubai or Greece.
As well, Harris observed that shortened quarantines are also encouraging her clients who had travelled abroad for the summer, usually for family reunions, weddings or honeymoons, to return to Hong Kong in late-August or September.
A seven-day quarantine is now more attractive for business travellers. Pictured: Mira Moon Hotel
A booster for business travel
Hotels, too, are already seeing positive effects of the reduced quarantine period.
Marc Hediger, Acting COO at Ovolo Hotels, said the group's Ovolo Southside hotel is recording a good mix of returning Hong Kong residents, business travellers, and people moving to Hong Kong for work or school purposes. “Most of our travellers are coming from the US, France, and (soon) the UK," he said.
“We’ve seen an increase in demand for seven-day quarantine stays, indicative of a potential increase in demand of outbound travel from Hong Kong,” added Hediger, even as the UK flight ban resulted in a large amount of cancellations.
“Undoubtedly, people’s desire to travel is positively affected by the shortened quarantine requirement," Alexander Wassermann, Head of Hotels & Serviced Apartments, Miramar Group.
"We’ve already heard from business partners, the expat community and our network overseas that the seven-day quarantine is acceptable and attractive to resume business and leisure travel to Hong Kong."