Dane Cheng told CNBC such plans would hinge on the success of the forthcoming Hong Kong-Singapore travel corridor. But he noted that adding a similar arrangement for quarantine-free travel around China’s Greater Bay Area would be the logical next step for business and leisure travelers.
“The next one for Hong Kong that we would like to see (would be) with the mainland, the Greater Bay Area,” Cheng said Friday.
The Greater Bay Area links several cities in Guangdong province with the special administrative territories of Hong Kong and Macao.
“That would be a key border for us,” he added, noting both proximity and common business and family ties.
All eyes will be on Hong Kong and Singapore this weekend as they launch their much-anticipated bilateral travel bubble, with inaugural flights due to depart both cities on Nov. 22.
Their agreement hinges on several conditions, one of which is that the seven-day moving average of daily unlinked local cases does not exceed five in either city. If it does, the deal will be suspended for two weeks, according to the Hong Kong government.
Hong Kong on Friday registered more than 50 confirmed and preliminary cases, and its health minister Sophia Chan warned of a possible fourth wave.
If the Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble is suspended due to the deteriorating coronavirus situation in either city, it could dash hopes of air travel bubble becoming a model for other countries.
Cheng, for his part, noted that both sides would have to be “cautious” about implementation of the program. But he added that it is “an important first step” in resuming international travel.
In October, tourist arrivals into Hong Kong were down 99% year-on-year, to 7,800 passengers. Typically, travelers from mainland China account for 60% of Hong Kong’s inbound tourism.
“We would like to see more countries and more regions, more cities, planning to open in the first quarter of the coming year,” said Cheng.
On Wednesday, major Asian travel operator Klook said tourism boards across the region had already been in touch to discuss plans should other bilateral travel deals emerge.
It always seems impossible until it is done.