A passenger wearing a face mask leaves the arrivals hall at the terminal at Hong Kong International Airport.
Miguel Candela | SOPA pictures | LightRocket | Getty Images
SINGAPORE – The Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble could go into effect this month – and talks are ongoing with other countries, including Thailand and Japan, according to Hong Kong Finance Secretary Paul Chan.
“We are working hard with the Singapore government,” said Chan. “The goal is to start this as soon as possible in November. The earlier the better.”
The two cities in mid-October announced plans to allow vacation travel to resume without the need for quarantines. Instead, tourists would take a coronavirus test before leaving. In Hong Kong, a second test may also be required upon arrival.
Tourism and aviation were hard hit by the pandemic this year. Singapore and Hong Kong too do not have domestic air travel markets cushion the blow.
Singapore has unilaterally opened its borders to tourists from countries like New Zealand and Brunei where the coronavirus situation is under control.
Chan said Hong Kong is in talks with 10 other countries to allow similar travel bubbles.
“For example Thailand, Japan – these are the countries we have more advanced talks with,” he said, adding that the authorities are working “very hard” to expand the network of air travel bubbles with different jurisdictions.
“At the same time, we are working very hard with the mainland authorities to try to revive travel between Hong Kong and the mainland as it is very important in business terms to accelerate the recovery of our economy,” said Chan.
The city fell into recession last year after months of anti-government protests, and the Covid-19 outbreak dealt another blow to the economy.
When asked if Hong Kong might lose some of its glamor to Shenzhen, the secretary said the financial center has “a very unique competitive advantage.”
Shenzhen celebrated 40 years as a Special Economic Zone last month and was given the flexibility to reform a few areas. according to Reuters.
Chan said there is “complementary cooperation” between Hong Kong and other Chinese cities.
“There are areas where we are very competitive and leading, but there are also other areas where we can work with neighboring cities to get the maximum synergy, such as innovation and technology,” he said.
“The way we see it, we need to work together in this process to get the best result for everyone involved,” he continued. “On the other hand, we have to keep improving in … sectors in which we are doing well, making ourselves even more competitive and being ahead of the competition.”