8:20pm 16/05/2023
Hello Hong Kong!

The Hong Kong government has put in a lot of effort, energy and resources to revitalize the territory’s post-pandemic tourist industry.

The Cathay Pacific iron bird is spreading its wings high in the sky. Inside the cabin, the distinct and crisp voice over the intercom: Hello everyone. Welcome aboard your flight CX xxx for Hong Kong…”

What a down-to-earth “hello everyone.” All of a sudden, everyone onboard the aircraft feels that the flight attendants and passengers have never been that close before!

But the reality is, flying around after the pandemic will make you feel more than ever that governments highly dependent on tourist dollars have been very aggressively re-tuning their marketing strategies and service attitude to better meet the real-life reality.

This will mean that the usual “Ladies and Gentlemen” that we customarily hear onboard the aircraft is now considered outdated, old fashioned, and less intimate.

As a matter of fact, Hong Kong is one of the few places that have been pushing very hard to sell its soft power to the world post-pandemic.

As the first of its many initiatives tailored to woo more foreign tourists, Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) generously purchased half a million air tickets from the territory’s three airline companies this March, and then gave them away freely to tourists around the world.

As expected, the free tickets were fully claimed in a very short time. After that, in May, Cathay Pacific came out with “Buy 1 Free 1“ promotion to attract hundreds of thousands of independent travelers to flock into the territory for holiday.

My Hong Kong media friend Tan said: We did experience a period of loss, panic, uneasiness and helplessness, but fortunately we now get to emerge afresh. Hong Kong is back in full vibrancy again! 

The thing is, even if we have the free or heavily discounted tickets in hand, and will have to set off almost immediately for Hong Kong, many will invariably feel uneasy about their upcoming trips.

It is said that in the past many tourists complained about the poor attitude of Hong Kong’s service personnel. Will we really see some improvement now?

For example, if we were to ask a little more, the impatient and hot-tempered service personnel would yell at you, demanding whether you are serious about buying, otherwise just get lost and don’t mess up with their business!

Sure enough Hong Kong Tourism Board is well aware of the tourists’ concerns. So, the territory’s authorities are proactively bringing upstream and downstream industrial players together to think of the solutions to address these problems, improve Hong Kong’s tourist service quality, and help sell it to international tourists with the objective of injecting a new lease of life into the territory’s consumer market.

The steamy Hong Kong-style pineapple bun is perfected with a chilly piece of butter. The bun’s soft and fluffy texture is itself completely ordinary but with a miraculous feel inside the mouth. This, coupled with a cup of Hong Kong-style milk tea brings out those unforgettable memories of Hong Kong’s spectacular culinary culture.

In view of this, starting from flight attendants, to everyone at the airport, taxi drivers, hotels, F&B industry, sightseeing spots and retail outlets… everyone is ready to welcome global visitors with a big smile!

One of the efforts is for the authorities to team up with over 16,000 local businesses to offer a million “Hong Kong Goodies” cash vouchers that can be redeemed at pubs, restaurants, free welcome drinks at hotels, public transport, F&B, retail shops and sightseeing spots all over Hong Kong. This gesture has helped tourists save on their expenses and will boost their will to fly to Hong Kong!

Mark, who just came back from Hong Kong several weeks ago, said: How weird! Hong Kong people are so much friendlier now! Even the waiter at the local cafe would ask “Can I help you?” Truly unbelievable!

Just can’t get used to such a change! Indeed, whenever Hong Kong is receiving compliments from the visitors, more and more people will tend to go there for holiday.

Hong Kong Tourism Board’s effort and determination are more than just this.

The authorities have brought in celebrities in the likes of Aaron Kwok, Sammy Cheng and Kelly Chan to promote the local culinary culture as well as high quality Hong Kong travel experience.

I notice that they have put in tremendous effort in selecting the sets for the promotion video: those are new national-level tourist destinations completed recently during the three-year coronavirus pandemic, such as the Hong Kong Palace Museum and the M+ visual culture museum.

Of course, the video also incorporates some of my most favorite Hong Kong delicacies like the Hong Kong-style milk tea, wanton noodle, etc., those mouthwatering stuff that will make you want to fly there right away!

During the recent May Day long weekend, I noticed while standing at Victoria Bay that visitors from near and far almost completely covered the entire stretch of the 2 km long causeway.

Most importantly, everyone was smiling. Sure enough they must have been extremely lucky to be able to enjoy an unforgettable vacation here in Hong Kong!

Additionally, there’s this “Happy Hong Kong” Gourmet Marketplace that allows the tourists to savor all the best culinary treats Hong Kong has to offer, under one roof.

I was thinking, the Hong Kong government must have put in a lot of effort, energy and resources to revitalize the territory’s post-pandemic tourist industry. But what about the profits raked in and asset value?

One thing I can be quite sure of is that the immigration officials at the airport have been doing their utmost to speed up immigration clearance. On top of that, all those frontline officials are putting on their best smiling faces to welcome the travelers arriving from across the world.

First impression counts, as this will make a good start for the visitors’ travel experience in Hong Kong!

We mustn’t think such “petty” things are immaterial. When these visitors go back to their countries and recall their holiday memories, they will  feel the warmth and great hospitality from the people of Hong Kong.

This gesture from Hong Kong Tourism Board is not established upon the new tourism resources and amenities added after the pandemic, but the thoughtful “soft power” that will draw you toward it: “Hello, Hong Kong!”

(Lee San is Founder and Group Executive Chairman of Apple Vacations. He has traveled to 132 countries, six continents, and enjoys sharing his travel stories and insights. He has also authored five books.)


Lee San
Apple Vacations
Hong Kong


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