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Hong Kong with its unique role offers great deal more than free air tickets

When Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu foreshadowed Thursday’s relaunch of Hong Kong as a business and tourism destination, he exuded confidence that the city’s pandemic-stricken economy would get back to normal soon afterwards. The relaunch, a “Hello Hong Kong” promotion campaign worth at least HK$100 million (US$12.75 million) in its first phase, will now put that optimism to the test.

It coincides with the expected removal of more impediments to free cross-border movement and then there is also the eye-catching international giveaway of about 700,000 air tickets, including 160,000 for those in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area.

The bait has now been laid to attract businessmen, investors and tourists from around the world back to Hong Kong – “the world’s freest economy”. The net has been cast far and wide, with Lee flying out on Saturday to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to lead a mission to promote trade, investment and cultural ties.

The campaign he presented on Thursday includes a series of events “to tell the world the good stories of Hong Kong” and to enhance promotion of business opportunities, cultural attractions and tourism experiences – some having been suspended for three years – to drive home to the world the message that “Hong Kong is back”.

Highlights include major trade shows and conventions, as well as sports and arts events, including existing drawcards such as the city’s marathon this month and the Rugby Sevens and Art Basel in May.

One test of such marketing promotions is whether they shift people’s perceptions and spending habits. The answer in this case lies well into the future.

The campaign has to overcome negative perceptions that developed during violent anti-government protests followed by isolating pandemic measures. Given the scale of it, cost-effectiveness is critical. It is unclear why it does not come with concrete targets, such as the lift it can give tourism. A key rebranding message is “seeing is believing”, designed to show the principle of “one country, two systems” remains strong and to combat any negative images. What matters most is how the city can convince the outside world that its vibrancy, opportunities, free flow of information, as well as its other unique advantages under one country, two systems remain unchanged.


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