The government’s Come2hk scheme commenced last Wednesday, allowing non‐Hong Kong residents coming from Guangdong province and Macao to enjoy quarantine‐free travel.
But the one‐sided policy has caused some further frustration amongst travel‐starved Hong Kongers. Is it enough to kickstart travel and unlock future benefits for local residents too, depending on the success of the scheme?
The online reservation system offers places on a first‐come‐first‐serve basis and accepts bookings every Wednesday at midnight. Quota will begin at 1,000 per day. Applicants for the scheme must be over 18 years of age and can apply for a maximum of three non‐Hong Kong residents to accompany them. Testing is required prior to the trip and must also undergo compulsory testing on the third, fifth, ninth, 12th, 16th and 19th day of arrival.
For Ovolo Hotels, Group Director of Marketing Stephen Howard believes that this will at least help long‐haul travel from the mainland to Hong Kong, particularly for business travel. “We do expect given the pent‐up demand and a change in traveller habits to see more long-stay business increase,”
he said. “Where business people would do shorter trips in the past they will travel for longer and not as frequently.”
This new collaboration encourages explorations in the neighbourhoods, set up with immersive art installations.
Ready, but it might still be early days yet
The Hong Kong tourism industry has been getting ready for the influx of travellers, from rejuvenating its neigbourhoods, social-media driven collaborations and pop ups, to a F&B regeneration in the works.
With the new Come2hk scheme, dedicated hotel packages for cross‐border travellers are already available to book. The Harbourview launched a package which includes free upgrades, buffet breakfast and discounted meals, while similarly, Kowloon Harbourfront Hotel have included pantry usage with a refrigerator and microwave oven.
Goldjoy Travel’s COO Carmen Chan says that the travel agency has already been preparing packages since July, working "with the MTR High Speed Rail and hotels at Greater Bay Area in order to prepare train tickets plus hotel accommodations package for leisure clients to have short weekend holidays”.
“Another plan we have in the pipeline includes train tickets plus cruise to nowhere packages for Mainland Chinese tourists who from the Greater Bay Area coming to Hong Kong," adds Chan.
In preparation for long‐haul customers, Ovolo notes that the upsurge will benefit and coincide with its existing packages. “We feel this will have a positive impact on our long-stay hotels, which we have partnered with DASH Living on, The Sheung Wan By Ovolo and The Aberdeen By Dash,” said Howard.
Still, sentiments on the ground remain lukewarm due to uncertainty with the Covid-19 situation, including the continued postponement of the HK‐Singapore travel bubble.
Chan thinks that it’s still early stages for a huge surge in travel. “We forecast that China traffic maybe resume around late November or December 2021, or afterwards if everything is running smoothly."
For Amy Overy, founder of Hong Kong tour operator Hong Kong Greeters, the scheme will have to become reciprocal for Hong Kong travellers too in order to push maximum benefits for the market. In the meantime, the Beijing Olympics will be the next big travel surge.
“My expectation for long‐haul travellers to return to Hong Kong is now after the Beijing Olympics at the earliest so I am working towards March 2022."