There is no doubt that Coronavirus has affected popular travel destinations around the world in ways that no other act or incident before it has. The interesting thing to look at is how different destinations have responded and what plans they are putting in place as they seek to recover this year and into the future.
Hong Kong, which for many Australian’s is a gateway to a large number of Asian destinations as well as a popular stop-over destination on the way to Europe and North America – last week unveiled what it’s calling a provisional total number of visitor arrivals in 2020. The destination recorded just 3.57 million visitors last year, a 93.6% drop from 2019.
Arrivals in January 2020 alone accounted for the majority 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 after that were visiting family members or traveling for other essential reasons, reducing the number of tourists to almost zero.
“Looking ahead to 2021, the HKTB is well prepared for the resumption of travel,” said Hong Kong Tourist Board Chairman Dr. Y.K. Pang. “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 stabilized.”
With visitors banned, a “Holiday@Home” promotional platform was launched in June 2020 for residents. The one-stop platform provided more than 15,000 offers in dining and retail outlets and attractions. HKTB says the campaign was well received by 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” launched in late October offered a Free Tour program. Members of the public could redeem a free local tour upon spending HK$800 in physical retail or dining outlets, generating consumption chain and boosting the domestic tourism simultaneously.
The program received an overwhelming response with the available tours filled within a week of its launch. By the end of the year, 7,500 people had taken the tours. Because of the evolving pandemic situation, however, the Free Tour program was suspended in December. The remaining tours, numbering around 100, will take place when the COVID-19 situation improves.
Competition for visitors around the region is expected to be fiercer than ever in the post-pandemic era. That’s why the HKTB has 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. HKTB launched a #MissYouToo community promotional campaign in April to spread the message that Hong Kong misses its visitors from around the world. The campaign invited representatives from the tourism industry and Hong Kong celebrities to engage with an international audience on social media platforms, using their networks to express a sincere wish to see visitors return to the city. The campaign reached 35 million people.
HKTB also launched a “360 Hong Kong Moments” campaign in October with the aim of producing around 20 videos on a variety of themes by the end of March 2021. Applying the latest 360-degree Virtual Reality panoramic technology and other innovative filming techniques, the videos allow audiences grounded by the pandemic to enjoy immersive journeys through Hong Kong’s diverse travel experiences from their homes.
HKTB maintained cooperation and communication with members of the tourism industry around the world through webinars, forums, business matching platforms, and organised virtual tours. More than 100 webinars have been organized by the HKTB since March 2020, and more than 15,000 trade representatives from overseas have participated.
In June, HKTB held its first global online forum, titled “Beyond COVID-19: Global Tourism’s New Normal” at which internationally respected industry leaders shared their insights. The forum attracted over 4,000 registrants, including tourism industry members, journalists, and academics.
In October, HKTB introduced a set of standardized hygiene protocols for tourism-related sectors to help establish Hong Kong’s reputation as a safe and healthy destination for future travel, sponsoring application fees in full for its trade partners. By mid-January 2021, more than 1,500 outlets were certified under the scheme.
What do you think destinations need to do to convince you that it is safe to visit?