A tourism industry representative on Sunday said better days are coming for the pandemic-hit industry, but the road to recovery is long as figures for both tourists and business travellers still fall short of pre-Covid levels.
Fanny Yeung, executive director of the Travel Industry Council (TIC), said while she's happy about a government plan to hand out free flight tickets to tourists, it's unlikely to yield long-term gains.
"I don't think there will be a very long-lasting effect that it can bring in visitors continuously, but definitely it is a very important message to stimulate their intent to come to Hong Kong, and also to give us advantage for Hong Kong as a destination," she told RTHK.
Yeung echoed the tourism minister Kevin Yeung's views that Hong Kong has to make up for lost time when it comes to bringing back holidaymakers.
"For the whole year of 2022, we have around 600,000 visitors coming into Hong Kong, which is just one percent compared with [that] of 2018. So you can see now we are still at a very early starting point. There's still a long way to go," the TIC executive director said, adding that she thinks it will take at least a year before the sector fully recovers.
Fanny Yeung also called on the government to provide more funding, saying the sector is struggling to recruit enough staff.
"In the past three years, we were just like very sick people. We were in the ICU [intensive care unit]. Right now with all the relaxation measures, finally we get out of the ICU. But you won't expect a person who has been sick for three years to start to run [immediately], right?" she said.
"It takes a long time for us to walk and run and do business as we did before 2020."
On the full border reopening with the mainland on Monday, Yeung said while it will significantly boost tourism, traveller numbers will still fall short of pre-pandemic levels.