Easter 2023: Hongkongers flock abroad in ‘revenge travel’

Thousands of Hong Kong residents flew to various destinations across South East Asia in an act coined as ‘revenge travel’, implying that they were capitalizing on the opportunity to enjoy an overseas vacation without the imposition of strict COVID-19 regulations for the first time in three years.

With the Qingming festival – or the Tomb Sweeping Day – falling on Wednesday, the 5th of April, followed by Good Friday and Easter Monday, most people only had to take a day or two off from work to avail a week-long break with friends and family.

“My boyfriend and I were able to make the trip out to Malaysia to visit his family after two whole years, and I got to check a new country off my travel list,” said Jodie Chow, a marketing executive at a lifestyle-based start-up. She shared that taking a leave of absence from work on Thursday allowed her to accomplish a six-day itinerary with her partner.

In the face of the pandemic, Hong Kong had enforced some of the strictest COVID-19 regulations globally, such as a 21-day mandatory quarantine and regular PCR testing for travellers and residents alike. Despite the long-awaited end to quarantine regulations in September 2022, the government continued to enforce certain testing restrictions on arrivals.

However, all COVID-19 regulations applying to inbound and outbound travellers were removed early this year, and residents breathed a long sigh of relief, ready to make up for the lost time.

“I wasn’t able to travel during the Lunar New Year week due to family commitments, so my friends and I began planning a vacation to Vietnam for the long Easter break,” said Vivian Lau, a final-year student at the University of Hong Kong.

The week-long Chinese New Year break in late January witnessed a massive outflow of residents travelling for the purpose of celebrating the festival with their families scattered across the world, especially Asia, after three years of border lockdowns.

On the eve of Easter Monday, an influx of travellers were welcomed back to reality by the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA). According to Statistics on Passenger Traffic released by the Immigration Department, departures from HKIA exponentially increased to over 51,000 from April 4th onwards whereas arrivals remained in the steady range of 45,000, peaking at 57,000 on Monday, April 10th, the last day of the Easter holidays.

Hong Kong International Airport witnesses long check-in lines as many travellers fly out during the Easter break. Photo Credit: Kamakshi Gupta

With most Western countries having lifted their drastic COVID-19 restrictions back in 2021, the phrase ‘revenge travel’ was devised by expats across the city who have been eagerly waiting for their chance to be tourists again. “Revenge travel is a fitting term,” said Priyank Rastogi, a permanent resident originally from India. “We have been standing by patiently while the rest of the world moved on from the pandemic – it is our turn to travel now.”

As Hongkongers return to their daily lives from Tuesday onwards, they have already begun planning for their next overseas vacation during the popular summer months of June and July, rejoicing in the rediscovered passion for travelling as the city finally moves towards achieving post-pandemic normalcy.

Featured image: OTC Planning & Design for HKIA

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