The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) today announced that the provisional total number of visitor arrivals in 2020 was 3.57 million, a 93.6% drop from 2019. Arrivals in January 2020 alone accounted for the majority of the annual total.
As COVID-19 started to spread around the world in February, Hong Kong limited entry to overseas visitors and introduced stringent quarantine measures from mid-March onwards. Most people arriving in Hong Kong thereafter were visiting family members or traveling for other essential reasons, reducing the number of tourists to almost zero.
HKTB Chairman Dr. YK Pang said, “The tourism industry has been through an extremely tough year. The Hong Kong Tourism Board has renewed its strategies and approach in response to the immense challenges of the pandemic.
As visitors could not come to Hong Kong in person, we took the initiative to concentrate on improving the city’s atmosphere and ambience while maintaining its international exposure, to attract visitors back to Hong Kong as soon as the COVID-19 situation eases.
Looking ahead to 2021, the HKTB is well prepared for the resumption of travel. We will further strengthen our cooperation with the travel trade to jointly develop new products and itineraries and enhance Hong Kong’s service quality to ensure we are ready to welcome visitors back with warm hospitality when the pandemic situation is stabilized.”
Key initiatives of the HKTB in 2020
Promoting Local Atmosphere
With visitors and Hong Kong people both unable to travel, the HKTB launched a first-of-its-kind promotion to encourage Hong Kong people to be tourists in their own city as a way to boost domestic consumption, deliver a positive message about Hong Kong to source markets, and generate confidence among visitors considering coming to the city in future.
- A “Holiday @ Home” promotional platform launched in June. The one-stop platform provided over 15,000 offers in dining and retail outlets and attractions. The campaign was well received by both the industry and the public, with more than 3.7 million visits to the campaign website by the end of the year.
- A second phase of “Holiday @ Home” launched in late October with a Free Tour program. Members of the public could redeem a quota for a free local tour upon spending HK$800 in physical retail or dining outlets, generating consumption chain and boosting the domestic tourism simultaneously. The program received an overwhelming response with the 10,000-place quota for tours filled within around a week of its launch. By the end of the year, 7,500 people had taken the tours. Because of the evolving pandemic situation, the Free Tour program was suspended in December. The remaining tours, numbering around 100, will take place when the COVID-19 situation improves.
- After the positive response to the Free Tour program, the HKTB is discussing with trade partners to explore the possibility of a similar campaign.
Maintaining Hong Kong’s International Exposure
Competition for visitors around the region is expected to be fiercer than ever in the post-pandemic era. The HKTB has therefore taken a number of steps over the past year to maintain Hong Kong’s international exposure with a view to bringing visitors back as soon as possible when the outbreak subsides.
- The HKTB launched a #MissYouToo community promotional campaign in April to spread the message that Hong Kong misses its visitors from around the world. The campaign invited representatives from the tourism industry and Hong Kong celebrities to engage with an international audience on social media platforms, using their networks to express a sincere wish to see visitors return to the city. The campaign reached 35 million viewers.
- A number of source markets responded to the promotion. HKTB offices around southeast Asia launched a “100 Reasons to Miss Hong Kong” campaign in July, inviting influencers in those markets to describe why they miss Hong Kong on their social media platforms. The South Korean office also published a “Hello Hong Kong!” coloring book in September. The book featured illustrations of Hong Kong landmarks and icons by popular illustrators and was distributed to celebrities and influencers. The celebrities and influencers then colored the illustrations and shared their work with their online audiences.
- The HKTB launched a “360 Hong Kong Moments” campaign in October with the aim of producing around 20 videos on a variety of themes by the end of March 2021. Applying the latest 360-degree Virtual Reality panoramic technology or other innovative filming techniques, the videos allow audiences grounded by the pandemic to enjoy immersive journeys through Hong Kong’s diverse travel experiences from their homes.
- The HKTB worked closely with international broadcasting networks while media outside Hong Kong were unable to visit the city. TV programs filmed earlier in Hong Kong were broadcast at different times in 2020, including Expedition Asia on The Discovery Channel, Chasing the Sun on Nat Geo People, Maximum Foodie (Hong Kong Episode) on the Asian Food Network, and many others, continuing to bring the city’s rich diversity of travel experiences to a global audience.
Mega Events in New Formats
The HKTB organized mega events in new formats to comply with social distancing rules, providing a business platform for the industry and promoting the appeal of Hong Kong’s mega events. The hugely popular Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival, for instance, adopted a new “Online+Offline” format, while the Hong Kong Winterfest and the Hong Kong New Year Countdown Celebrations were held online for the first time.
A video of the Hong Kong New Year Countdown Celebrations attracted more than 5 million views on the HKTB’s social media platforms. A total of 110 media organizations in Hong Kong, on the Mainland and overseas also reported on the event, including the China News Service, the Xinhua News Agency, Phoenix TV, CNN, and the BBC. Some of the media organizations broadcast the event live or rebroadcast it.
Communicating and Working Closely with Trade Partners
The HKTB maintained cooperation and communication with members of the tourism industry around the world through webinars, forums, business matching platforms, and organized virtual tours.
- More than 100 webinars have been organized by the HKTB since March 2020, and more than 15,000 trade representatives from the Mainland and overseas have participated.
- A major webinar was held in April to maintain communication with global trade partners and analyze the pandemic’s impact on tourism. It was attended by 1,500 trade representatives from Hong Kong. In June, the HKTB held its first global online forum, titled “Beyond COVID-19: Global Tourism’s New Normal” in June at which internationally-respected industry leaders shared their insights. The forum attracted over 4,000 registrants, including tourism industry members, journalists, and academics.
- The HKTB launched its first online matching platform to connect companies interested in organizing MICE events in Hong Kong with operators, venue providers, attractions, and hotels. The platform successfully matched over 500 Hong Kong businesses and Mainland enterprises, and set up more than 1,300 meetings.
- From September, the HKTB worked with a Japanese travel agency to host virtual tours to Hong Kong. More than 10 tours were organized and the cooperating agency said the tours were the most popular virtual tours they had arranged.
- In October, the HKTB introduced a set of standardized hygiene protocols for tourism related sectors to help establish Hong Kong’s reputation as a safe and healthy destination for future travel, sponsoring application fees in full for its trade partners. By mid-January 2021, more than 1,500 outlets were certified under the scheme.