Hong Kong preps for travel surge as COVID curbs ease

STORY: Hong Kong is readying a surge in travel as it ends mandatory COVID-19 hotel quarantine for the first time in more than two and a half years.

Travel companies reported a 10-fold jump in requests.

The global financial hub's leader, John Lee, said on Friday (September 23) that international arrivals could return home or seek accommodation of their choice, but had to self-monitor for three days on entry.

58-year-old Hong Kong resident Barbara Van Moppes was so excited by the news, she changed her flights so she could arrive back in Hong Kong on the day the restrictions lifted.

"The rest of the world has opened up and so Hong Kong was falling behind and I think it just needs to open up now and return to normal, because it’s such a fantastic place to live."

Travel website ExpediaHong Kong said searches for Japan surged to 10 times on the news, while those for Taiwan almost doubled over the prior 14 days.

Trip.com said flight searches surged 95 times and orders soared 50% on its Hong Kong site on the week, with Tokyo, Bangkok, Osaka and Singapore featuring as top destinations.

Monday's change though still leaves Hong Kong far behind much of the world in dropping curbs.

International arrivals remain barred from bars and restaurants for three days.

Although allowed to go to work and school, they still need to do multiple COVID tests in the first week after arriving.

Still, Hong Kong's Travel Industry Council expects outbound travel to surge as much as 50% for the next few months, its executive director told public broadcaster RTHK.

But adding that growth would be capped by the number of outbound flights, while inbound tourism was not likely to grow by much, inhibited by the existing restrictions.