For a while, it looked like Hong Kong was finally on its way to opening up to the world, loosening its tight pandemic restrictions to international travel.
The Hong Kong government in June had earlier shortened quarantine for vaccinated travellers from 21 days to one week, offering a more manageable option for travel-starved residents.
Response from Hong Kong residents has been positive, according to outbound travel experts. “From our figures, we can see more business travellers and visiting friends or relatives travellers who are willing to travel with the shortened (seven-day) quarantines”, said Kelvin Ko, Director of Travel Expert Group.
Now the surge in outbound travel interest from Hong Kong is likely to be a short-lived one, as travel agents now ponder the impacts from the latest round of tightened Covid-19 rules that are now imposed on arrivals entering the city.
In a U-turn, the Hong Kong government on Monday increased the mandatory quarantine on Hong Kong residents returning from 16 countries, including the US to 21 days.
"These countries won’t make much difference as their borders are not open to other countries unless you have the visa to enter. This changed quarantine period will definitely affect the outbound travel interest," said Ko.
Anita Tsui, previously the General Manager for FIT & Wholesales at EGL Tours Company, also believes that all outbound travel demand would now be curtailed.
"It is a chain effect, from isolation concern to airlines' capacity planning, and hence airfare is rising because of limited seat supply, etc. All factors — virus worries, quarantine, one's annual leave, capacity supply and airfares — are cooling down the [outbound] interest."
She added, "The market forecast of Q4 is pessimistic because of lots of uncertainties."
Meanwhile, staycations, local tours and cruises are expected to retain their popularity in Hong Kong, with many hotels and restaurants booked out for the summer holidays.
“We can see that from the huge spending in Hong Kong staycations from our customers," said Ko. According to him, there’s been a huge increase in sales volumes every month, a reflection of the strong pent-up demand for travel-starved Hong Kongers to spend money and take a break from work.