THE Hong Kong government is inviting Cebuanos to resume their trade and tourism dealings with Hong Kong now that it’s open for business.

“Hong Kong is now back on stage,” said Allen Pang, deputy director of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, during the Chinese New Year Celebration organized by the Hong Kong Trade and Economic Office, InvestHK and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023, at the Radisson Blu Hotel Cebu.

Pang said the Hong Kong government is aggressively attracting new businesses and investments in Hong Kong as well as strengthening its bilateral ties with its Asean neighbors, including the Philippines, specifically Cebu.

“Hong Kong is well paced to serve Cebu’s aspiration in various aspects,” said Pang before the Chinese-Cebuano community.

Pang said since January this year, Hong Kong has fully opened itself to everybody from anywhere around the world and that its air route to Cebu offers a critical link.

The Hong Kong government official said Hong Kong is actively reinstating its air capacity to serve its neighbors.

“With the easing of travel restrictions, we are confident that the bilateral tourism (between the Philippines and Hong Kong) will pick up quickly,” said Pang.

Vivienne Chee, director of the HKTDC in Singapore, also expects business as usual activities to resume with Cebu and Hong Kong with the resumption of flights and easing of travel restrictions.

She invited Cebuano entrepreneurs to join various expos and exhibitions that the HKTDC is mounting, such as the upcoming “Think Business, Think Hong Kong” expo and symposium on July 13-14, 2023 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Chee said she’s hoping Cebuanos will restart their travel frequencies to Hong Kong.

Two weeks ago Hong Kong announced it would give away air tickets and vouchers to woo tourists back to the international financial hub, racing to catch up with other popular travel destinations in a fierce regional competition.

During the pandemic, the city largely aligned itself with mainland China’s “zero-Covid” strategy and has relaxed its entry rules months slower than rivals, such as Singapore, Japan and Taiwan.

Chief executive John Lee launched a tourism campaign “Hello Hong Kong,” saying the city will offer 500,000 free air tickets to welcome tourists from around the world in what he called “probably the world’s biggest welcome ever.”

“Hong Kong is now seamlessly connected to the mainland of China and the whole international world and there will be no isolation, no quarantine,” he said at the ceremony. “This is the perfect timing for tourists, business travelers and investors from near and far to come and say, ‘Hello, Hong Kong.’”

Trade partnership

The Philippines was Hong Kong’s 11th largest trading partner in the world in 2022, according to the Trade and Industry Department of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Total merchandise trade between the two economies in 2020 was US$12.8 billion, a decrease of 6.2 percent from 2019.

The average annual growth rate in bilateral trade between the Philippines and Hong Kong from 2016 to 2020 was 3.9 percent. In 2020, Hong Kong’s total exports to the Philippines decreased by 18.2 percent while imports from the Philippines decreased by 0.1 percent. (with AP)