HONG KONG (Reuters) -Hong Kong leader John Lee unveiled on Thursday a promotion campaign that will include 500,000 free flights to lure visitors, businesses and investors back to the financial hub after more than three years of tough COVID-19 curbs.
The "Hello Hong Kong" campaign launched with dancers and flashing neon lights in the city's main convention centre beside its famous harbour, with a backdrop carrying the slogan in various languages, including Russian and Spanish.
Lee, speaking in English, said the campaign would show the city was open for tourism and was aimed at boosting business and investment in the Chinese special administrative region.
"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 experiencing ... enjoying the hustle and bustle of Asia's world city," he added.
Officials from the city's tourism, trade and aviation departments also attended the launch.
Hong Kong was largely sealed off behind closed borders for much of the past three years in a bid to ward off COVID, with mandatory quarantine of up to three weeks for arrivals, as well as intensive testing and screening.
The former British colony closely followed China's zero-COVID policy until the middle of 2022, when it began to gradually unwind its rules.
Hong Kong dropped most of the rest in December, but mask-wearing remains mandatory except during exercise, along with daily rapid antigen testing for students.
There remains a quota system for travellers between the mainland and Hong Kong and a COVID test requirement. Three of Hong Kong's border checkpoints with China have remained closed.
In December, China said it would scrap most of its COVID curbs and in January, it reopened its borders to the world, despite a surge in infections.
Many in Hong Kong deplored the COVID rules as threatening the city's competitiveness and standing as an international financial centre, especially after a period of political tension over pro-democracy protests.
Lee said Hong Kong would host sports and cultural events and highlight attractions such as the Palace Museum and M+ museum, as well as a revamped Peak Tram with special vouchers.
Upcoming events include the Clockenflap music festival, Hong Kong marathon and the Rubgy Sevens tournament.
Hong Kong celebrities, officials and business executives featured in promotional videos streamed during the ceremony that would be used to promote the city, Lee said.
"We have to let outsiders know that Hong Kong has a unique status, especially when the ‘one country, two systems’ principles will be implemented in Hong Kong for a long time," he added.
Airlines Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Express and Hong Kong Airlines will receive free flight tickets to be distributed to overseas visitors for six months from March 1, officials said.
(Reporting by Farah Master, Jessie Pang, Twinnie Siu and Donny Kwok; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Robert Birsel)