Shorter Hong Kong Quarantine Sparks Surge in Travel Searches

Hong Kong’s plan to shorten quarantine sparked a wave of searches on travel websites by residents desperate to fly abroad, even if it means a week of isolation in a hotel room and Covid tests galore upon return.

Hong Kong search traffic on travel-booking website Skyscanner Ltd. soared 43% Monday, when the government said quarantine would be cut to seven days for fully vaccinated residents arriving from all but the riskiest virus hotspots.

Some of the most popular searches were for mainland China, Japan, the U.S. and the U.K., a Skyscanner spokesman said, despite many having strict entry requirements of their own. There’s also a risk of countries falling back into the highest risk categories, which require 21 days quarantine, vaccinated or not. While bookings jumped, overall volumes remain low, the spokesman said.

Shorter Hong Kong Quarantine Sparks Surge in Travel Searches

Within 24 hours of Monday’s announcement on shorter quarantine, which is due to take effect from June 30, searches for international destinations on Expedia Group Inc.’s local website rose by 10% and by 40% for Macau, according to the company’s Asia-Pacific Managing Director Catherine So.

While Hong Kong has had close to zero local infections for weeks, one or two imported cases continue to trickle in, keeping authorities on guard. That cautious approach has left a quarantine-free travel agreement with Singapore on the shelf, even though the city-state has largely contained the virus and there’s strong pent-up demand for flights between the two financial hubs.

Shares in Hong Kong’s main airline, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., are back around the same level they were a year ago at HK$6.89, having fallen as low as HK$5.09 and hitting as high as HK$7.89. Singapore Airlines Ltd. has climbed 28% over the past 12 months after a plunge in the early days of Covid.

Hong Kong’s low vaccination rate remains a stumbling block to reopening. Only about 17% of residents are fully inoculated despite an abundance of vaccine supply and a growing trove of potential prizes offered by the business community to incentivize people to get vaccinated.

Concern about side effects and distrust of the Beijing-backed government have slowed the city’s vaccination progress, but the chance for shorter quarantine for travelers appears to have had an impact -- bookings for BioNTech Ltd. and Sinovac Biotech Ltd. shots increased 55% on Monday from the previous day.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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