According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), the provisional total number of visitor arrivals in 2020 was 3.57 million, a 93.6 per cent drop from 2019. Arrivals in January 2020 alone accounted for most of the annual total. As Covid-19 started to spread around the world in February, Hong Kong limited entry to overseas visitors and introduced stringent quarantine measures from mid-March onwards. Most people arriving in Hong Kong thereafter were visiting family members or travelling for other essential reasons, reducing the number of tourists to almost zero.
HKTB Chairman Dr YK Pang said: “The tourism industry has been through an extremely tough year. The Hong Kong Tourism Board has renewed its strategies and approach in response to the immense challenges of the pandemic. As visitors could not come to Hong Kong in person, we took the initiative to concentrate on improving the city’s atmosphere and ambience while maintaining its international exposure, to attract visitors back to Hong Kong as soon as the Covid-19 situation eases. Looking ahead to 2021, the HKTB is well prepared for the resumption of travel. We will further strengthen our cooperation with the travel trade to jointly develop new products and itineraries and enhance Hong Kong’s service quality to ensure we are ready to welcome visitors back with warm hospitality when the pandemic situation is stabilised.”
With visitors and Hong Kong people both unable to travel, the HKTB launched a first of-its-kind promotion to encourage Hong Kong people to be tourists in their own city as a way to boost domestic consumption, deliver a positive message about Hong Kong to source markets, and generate confidence among visitors considering coming to the city in future.
A “Holiday @ Home” promotional platform was launched in June. The one-stop platform provided over 15,000 offers in dining and retail outlets and attractions. The campaign was well received by both the industry and the public, with more than 3.7 million visits to the campaign website by the end of the year.
A second phase of “Holiday @ Home” was launched in late October with a Free Tour programme. Members of the public could redeem a quota for a free local tour upon spending HK$800 ($103) in physical retail or dining outlets, generating consumption chain and boosting the domestic tourism simultaneously. The programme received an overwhelming response with the 10,000-place quota for tours filled within around a week of its launch. By the end of the year, 7,500 people had taken the tours.
Because of the evolving pandemic situation, the Free Tour programme has been suspended since December. The remaining tours, numbering around 100, will take place when the Covid-19 situation improves. After the positive response to the Free Tour programme, the HKTB is discussing with trade partners to explore the possibility of a similar campaign.
Competition for visitors around the region is expected to be fiercer than ever in the post pandemic era. The HKTB has therefore taken a number of steps over the past year to maintain Hong Kong’s international exposure with a view to bringing visitors back as soon as possible when the outbreak subsides.