Vacation destinations like Finland and Sicily are giving away free trips, flights, and hotels to revive tourism — see the full list

"The White Lotus" season two stars some familiar faces.
White Lotus fans rejoice: Sicily, the Italian island where season 2 of the series is filmed, is offering visitors discounted airfare and a free night in affiliated hotels.HBO

Getting paid to travel is usually a line either associated with wishful thinking or a scam. But this time, you're in luck — it's the real deal.

Some of Asia and Europe's top travel destinations are offering visitors serious financial incentives in hopes of reviving tourism back to pre-pandemic levels. Sicily, Finland, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are giving away free flights, hotel stays, excursions, and even straight cash.

Here's how you can take advantage of the initiatives on your next vacation:


Helsinki, Finland.
Helsinki, Finland.

Helsinki, Finland.Getty Images

Finland, which was just ranked the world's happiest country for the fifth year in a row, is selecting 10 lucky applicants to take a four-day "masterclass in happiness" at the lakeside Kuru Resort from June 12 to 15 this summer.

In order to apply, you need to fill out a sign-up form and participate in a social media challenge on Instagram or TikTok before April 2.

The social media challenge asks participants to create content that showcases "what things make you believe you may secretly be a Finn" and demonstrates your interest in the program. To be considered, tag @ourfinland on Instagram or on TikTok and use the hashtags #FindYourInnerFinn and #Visitfinland.

According to Visit Finland's website, the content will be judged on creativity, authenticity, uniqueness — as well as engagement. The application notes that while you don't need to be an influencer in order to apply, the judges will consider how your account reflects your "relationship with overall wellbeing and nature."


Italy, Sicily, Taormina.
Taormina, the town in Sicily where White Lotus Season 2 was filmed.Gary Yeowell/Getty Images

Sicily, a historic island in the South of Italy, first launched its "See Sicily" travel promotion two years ago and recently announced its revival for 2023.

Through the voucher program, visitors who book three nights at an affiliated hotel receive an extra night free of charge. The package also includes 50% off your flight or ferry ride to the island and a free local "excursion" like a walking tour or scuba diving.

The tricky part is that you have to book the trip through a local travel agency. The website lists dozens of affiliated travel agents by region, including popular tourist hubs Catania and Palermo. But as The Washington Post's travel reporter Andrea Sachs experienced first-hand, that can mean sending dozens of emails (and getting ghosted by the few who answer).

Reading the fine print also reveals that the flight discount is only for trips departing before September 30, with the months of July and August excluded from the deal entirely. And while the promotion is advertised as 50% off, the maximum discount is 100€ for domestic flights and 200€ for international flights.


Tourists walking on the Bitoujiao trail in Rueifang District, in New Taipei City on March 1, 2020.
Tourists walking on the Bitoujiao trail in Rueifang District, in New Taipei City on March 1, 2020.SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images

Taiwan's promotion is less complicated, but potentially less lucrative too.

Premier Chen Chien-jen announced in February that the Republic of China plans to give away $165 to 500,000 tourists who visit the East Asian island, according to CNN Travel. A total of 90,000 tour groups will also be awarded $658, the report says.

The initiative is set to launch on April 15, according to local outlet the Taipei Times. The logistics of distributing the cash vouchers to travelers are still being ironed out, the outlet reported in March.

Earlier this winter, Taiwan also launched a two-for-one deal for international tourists purchasing high-speed rail tickets. The promotion also includes "various discounts on accommodation, attraction tickets and shopping," the Tourism Bureau says.

Both initiatives are part of Taiwan's efforts to attract six million tourists this year and 10 million visitors by 2025.

Hong Kong

The central district of Hong Kong.
The central district of Hong Kong.ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images

After years of strict COVID-19 restrictions, Hong Kong is giving out 500,000 free plane tickets to visitors from around the world, with a portion of the flights reserved for travelers from the US.

The promotion is part of the "Hello Hong Kong" campaign designed to tell the world that Hong Kong is back open for international travel, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said at a press conference.

"Hong Kong is now connected to mainland China and the whole international world, and there will be no isolation, no quarantine and no restrictions on ... enjoying the hustle and bustle of Asia's world city,"  Hong Kong leader John Lee said during the February announcement, per Reuters.

Starting March 1, the tickets will be distributed by airlines Hong Kong Express, Cathay Pacific, and Hong Kong Airlines, Time Out reported.

The promotion has already received overwhelming demand — Insider reporter and Singapore resident Huileng Tan attempted to enter Cathay Pacific's giveaway and got stuck waiting behind 50,000 people.

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