TORONTO — It’s going to be a breakout year for Asia now that most countries in the region have dropped the last of their COVID-19-related entry requirements and fully reopened their borders to international visitors.
According to KAYAK, flight searches to Asia are up 100% since last summer, with Manila (+287% year-over-year increase in searches), Tokyo (+279% YoY) and Bangkok (+229% YoY) leading the top trending international destinations in 2023. This summer, searches by Canadians for rental cars in Asia are also up 126% year-over-year, while hotel searches in the region have spiked 120% year-over-year.
Also notable is the fact that compared to pre-pandemic levels in summer 2019, Canadians are searching for longer international trips, from an average of 18 days to 21, indicating that they’re ready to go further afield and explore bucket-list destinations once again.
“Pre-pandemic, we saw interest searches spike for travel to Asia in April and May and so far this year, the same is true with April and May being the most searched months for travel to Asia in 2023, so far,” says Leon Mulder, Senior Country Manager of KAYAK Canada. “Pre-pandemic, we also saw a spike in searches for travel to Asia during the holiday season and don’t expect this year to be any different, especially given the strong interest we’ve seen from Canadians searching for travel to Asia this summer.”
All this is great news for destinations like Hong Kong, which has also seen a significant increase in searches for travel from Canada this summer compared to 2019 (+94%). Having dropped all pre-departure and post-arrival quarantine and testing requirements on April 1, 2023 and its mask mandate on March 1, 2023, coupled with the Canadian government’s lifting of temporary pre-departure test requirements for air travellers from China, Hong Kong and Macao on March 17, 2023, Hong Kong is poised for major recovery this year, particularly from the Canadian market, which contributed over 318,000 visitors prior to the pandemic, in 2019.
“There is clearly an interest in travelling to Hong Kong, likely influenced by the removal of travel restrictions,” says Michael Lim, Acting Director-Americas, Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB). “We saw a jump of 70% in visitor arrivals from Canada in March compared to February, and an increase of 90% in April compared to February, before the removal of travel restrictions.”
The HKTB’s new global campaign, ‘Hello Hong Kong,’ was fortuitously timed in February, just ahead of the removal of Hong Kong’s travel restrictions, causing a much needed back-to-back boost in tourism. Launched as a clear signal to the world that it is ready to welcome back international tourists, the campaign includes a vast selection of enticing offers from more than 16,000 local establishments ranging from complimentary welcome drinks to exclusive gifts and transportation vouchers.
But what really has people talking is the campaign’s massive air ticket giveaway – 500,000 tickets, to be exact, courtesy of Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK). Distributed globally through Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong Express, Hong Kong Airlines and Greater Bay Airlines on a first-come-first-serve basis, the complimentary air tickets generated huge buzz for the destination in key markets, particularly Canada.
“In Canada, air tickets were distributed on May 17, and we are very encouraged by the enthusiastic response from Canadians. As of today, all the tickets have been claimed,” says Lim. “HKTB has launched various worldwide campaigns through the years, and we think that each one is unique, bold and innovative. ‘Hello Hong Kong’ is not an exception but this is the first time that AAHK is giving away 500,000 airline tickets.”
Of course, once visitors arrive in Hong Kong, they’re going to want to see the sights, of which the city certainly has no shortage of. A host of new and upgraded attractions has been unveiled in recent years, most notably the M+, a museum of 20th- and 21st-century visual culture, and the Hong Kong palace Museum, featuring over 900 treasures from the Palace Museum at the Forbidden City in Beijing. There’s also the state-of-the-art, sixth-generation Peak Tram, which carries riders to the upper levels of Hong Kong Island, Water World Ocean Park, Asia’s first all-weather, year-round water park by the sea, and ‘Momentous,’ an all-new nighttime spectacular at Hong Kong Disneyland.
When asked when would be the best time for Canadians to visit, Lim says there are two peak seasons – fall and winter. “But with so many events happening throughout the year, including summer, Hong Kong is a perfect year-round getaway!”
There are currently 21 weekly direct flights to Hong Kong from Canada. For more information about travel to Hong Kong go to www.discoverhongkong.com/ca.
This article originally ran in the June 1 issue of Travelweek. To read the issue, click here.