Hong Kong wants tourists back. The government is even willing to pay for 500,000 free flights for travelers who want to to come to the city.

City leader John Lee revealed the “Hello Hong Kong” tourism campaign Thursday and announced it would include the flight ticket giveaway. The city is hoping to “reverse four years of plummeting tourism numbers and to revive the economy,” The Washington Post reported.

“This, ladies and gentlemen, is probably the world’s biggest welcome ever,” Lee said during the event, per the Post.

Why has Hong Kong lost tourists in the last 4 years?

The city has faced difficult obstacles during the last four years. One of the most pivotal was the response to the pro-democracy protests in 2019. Demonstrators and police clashed, and some of the protests turned into riots that significantly damaged parts of the city. The central government responded a year later with a law that allowed law enforcement “to criminalize speech and stifle dissent,” and pro-democracy leaders were arrested during that time, The New York Times reported.

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And then there was the COVID-19 pandemic. Borders were sealed and strict quarantines and COVID-19 restrictions were imposed. Those have lessened but aren’t gone completely.

The city continues a mandatory indoor and outdoor mask requirement, and violators who get caught could be fined up to $1,275, per The Times.

If you want to be one of ticket winners, here’s how to do it, according to CNN. There will be three rounds of giveaways.

  • March 1: Tickets will be available to residents of Southeast Asia.
  • April 1: Tickets open up to residents of mainland China.
  • May 1: The rest of the world can apply for the free tickets.
  • July 1: Hong Kong locals can try for some of the city’s tickets for residents to “make up for lost travel time,” per CNN.
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