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Thursday, Feb 02, 2023

Families reunite as Hong Kong scraps hotel quarantine

Hongkongers are reuniting after the city scraps its Covid-19 hotel quarantine policy for all arrivals from Monday, more than 2.5 years after it was first implemented.
The government’s new “0+3” entry scheme took effect today, with travelers asked to monitor their own health for three days without having to stay in a designated quarantine hotel.

During these three days, travelers are given an “amber” health code, which prohibits them from entering venues such as bars and restaurants, or any other venues covered by the vaccine pass.

The first flight arriving in the city since the scheme kicks in is from Taipei, with the airliner delaying the flight for 4 hours to allow travelers to benefit from the latest change in quarantine rules.

Among those flying in this morning is Ha, who resided in Taiwan and has not seen his family members in Hong Kong for more than two years.

He told reporters at the airport that he kept monitoring the available flight tickets since the SAR government announced the changes in the quarantine rules, and eventually secured his flight for HK$900 - a relatively more expensive flight compared to pre-Covid levels.

He said he had submitted all health declaration documents before his flight and the clearance process with Customs was smooth.

Ha mentioned that his return to Hong Kong is a secret from his family members and he wanted to give them a surprise. He also added he has been craving for the city’s famous wonton noodles for a long time.

"I have been waiting for this for almost three years," said 58-year-old Hong Kong resident, Barbara Van Moppes, who arrived from Bangkok. "The rest of the world has opened up and so Hong Kong needs to open up now and return to normal, because it's such a fantastic place to live."

Meanwhile, flight bookings out of Hong Kong have seen a massive leap of 400 percent since the “0+3” scheme was announced.

Trip.com’s Hong Kong website experienced a nearly 400 percent increase in outbound flight orders over the weekend compared with September 17-18, the online travel agency said Monday.

Most orders were for the National Day long weekend at the start of October and Christmas, with short-haul travel in Asia proving popular. The average length of overseas hotel bookings for Hong Kong travelers is three to four days, said Eddy Yip, Trip.com’s e-commerce lead for Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The top five flight destinations are Bangkok, Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore and Osaka, with orders for the latter soaring 7,300 percent from the previous weekend, Yip said in an emailed statement.

There was a 155 percent increase from the previous weekend in inbound flight orders to Hong Kong, while the average hotel booking in the city is for about five days.

“Travelers from overseas countries may need more time to digest and respond to the ‘0+3’ policy,” Yip said, referring to curbs in the first three days of arriving in Hong Kong, such as not being allowed into bars and restaurants.

Trip.com is “convinced” inbound tourism will increase sharply in the fourth quarter, Yip said.

Hong Kong's Travel Industry Council expects outbound travel to surge as much as 50% for the next few months, executive director Fanny Yeung said.

Growth would be capped by the number of outbound flights, however, Yeung cautioned, while inbound tourism was not likely to grow by much, inhibited by the existing curbs.

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