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Airline websites flooded as HK ticket giveaway begins

People hoping to benefit from a Hong Kong program to give away half a million free plane tickets faced hours of online queues on Wednesday as the city tries to woo tourists back.

Hong Kong launched a campaign last month to reinvigorate its reputation as “Asia’s world city” after years of tough pandemic-related travel restrictions and a crackdown on sometimes violent pro-democracy protests.

On Wednesday, Hong Kong was one of the last places in the world to drop its outdoor mask mandate, in what city leader John Lee called a sign it’s “getting back to normal”.

Tourism once made up almost five percent of the city’s economy, but visitor numbers plummeted to 600,000 last year — less than one percent of 2018 levels.

Hong Kong-based airlines Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines were the first to launch the government-backed “Hello, Hong Kong” ticket giveaway, which will run for several months.

Social media users complained about long online queues to register, and an AFP reporter found waiting times of more than two hours on Cathay Pacific’s website. According to the reporter, more than 55,000 users were waiting to access the offer.

Cathay Pacific said the raffle for 17,400 round-trip tickets from Thailand to Hong Kong ended Wednesday afternoon, although it was originally scheduled to last seven days.

The airline did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.

The first tier of the giveaway bot Return flights from Southeast Asia. Hong Kong residents are eligible for a separate campaign for 80,000 tickets, which will be launched in July.

Hong Kong once had one of the busiest and best-connected airports in the world, but travel virtually ground to a halt when the city imposed strict travel restrictions and quarantine requirements as part of China’s zero-Covid doctrine.

The restrictions helped the city stay largely virus-free until a deadly omicron outbreak in early 2022 that killed more than 9,000 people.

The city has since lifted most curbs, but around 20 regional Asian airlines have been unable to resume flights to the city since January due to labor shortages.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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