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Friday, May 24, 2024

China’s Covid policy rollback prompts query surge for mainland flights from Hong Kong

China’s Covid policy rollback prompts query surge for mainland flights from Hong Kong

Trip.com Group says search traffic for flights from Hong Kong to mainland soared by 500 per cent during 30-minute window before Monday midnight.

Interest in visiting mainland China via Hong Kong has spiked after authorities there said they would axe cross-border Covid-19 travel curbs, with an online ticketing agency logging a more than 500 per cent jump in search traffic just minutes after the announcement.

Online travel agency Trip.com Group on Tuesday said searches on two of its sites for flights to the mainland had shot up immediately after Beijing’s National Health Commission at around 11.10pm on Monday revealed the shared border would fully reopen on January 8.

The company said flights from Hong Kong to major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Chengdu and Nanjing had attracted the most interest on its two websites, Trip.com and Ctrip.

During the 30-minute window before midnight, combined data from both sites showed an average query increase of 521 per cent for flights from Hong Kong to the mainland compared with the week before.

Breaking down the data by destination, queries for flights from Hong Kong to Shanghai increased by 1,039 per cent, while searches for trips to Beijing and Hangzhou respectively rose by 718 per cent and 662 per cent.

“We are optimistic about the tourism outlook,” the travel agency said in a statement.

Data from Ctrip also showed a surge in searches among mainland users interested in outbound flights, with the top 10 destinations comprising Macau, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the United States, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and the United Kingdom.

A check by Post also found that six flights were expected to depart Hong Kong on Tuesday for the mainland. Seven were due to leave each day on Wednesday and Thursday, before increasing to nine on Friday.

The city’s flag carrier, Cathay Pacific, currently operates flights to 11 mainland destinations, including Beijing and Hangzhou. The airline said it also planned to add Xian to the list next month.

A Cathay spokesman told the Post that the airline welcomed Beijing’s coming coronavirus policy change for inbound travellers and imported cargo.

“We will continue to communicate with relevant authorities and to increase our passenger capacity to and from the Chinese mainland as much as possible,” she said.

After almost three years of stringent travel curbs, mainland authorities on Monday announced that they would scrap centralised quarantine and nucleic acid testing for all inbound travellers, as well as ease related procedures for transporting cargo.

Prospective travellers have shown an interest in heading to major cities on the mainland via Hong Kong.

A previous cap on the number of international planes allowed to fly to destinations there will also be abolished, but people heading to the mainland will still be required to undergo a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within 48 hours of travelling.

The policy rollback also includes a promise to improve arrangements for work and business travellers from overseas and facilitate the issuing of the necessary visas.

Under the current system, overseas travellers can only enter the mainland if they have a valid residency permit or have obtained a relevant visa.

Meanwhile, Hongkongers looking to cross the border must use the Shenzhen Bay checkpoint, which is subject to a daily quota of 3,500 inbound travellers.

A statement from the commission also said passenger travel via sea and land ports would be gradually restored, while outbound travel for Chinese nationals would resume “in an orderly manner”.

It also announced that Covid-19’s status as a top-tier infectious disease from January 8 would be downgraded to a second-tier one, putting it in the same category as HIV, viral hepatitis and H7N9 bird flu.

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