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Want to Go to Asia for Free? Mark Your Calendars for May 1

So many freebies this year.

The tourism industry was worth $9 trillion—about 10% of global GDP—in 2019. And post-pandemic, every country wants a piece of this pie. Destinations are in full recovery mode to lure people back. Their best tool? Freebies, rewards, giveaways.

Remember the loyalty program introduced by the Maldives in the thick of it all? For years, Italy has gone far beyond anything imaginable: the country has repeatedly offered villas for $1 and even given away money for people to move to its villages and towns. Last year, the small town of Friuli Venezia Giulia was enticing people to stay two nights by reimbursing train tickets, among other discounts and freebies.

Two Asian countries are also employing similar marketing tactics to bring travelers back. And considering how much it costs to fly to Asia from the United States, these discounts might be worth looking at.

Related: I Tried to Buy a $1 House in Italy: Here’s What Happened

500,000 Free Flight Tickets to Hong Kong

Hong Kong has had several troubled years. Even before the pandemic, the special administrative region of China was losing tourists after pro-democracy protests turned violent. In 2019, tourism fell from 65 million arrivals to 55 million. Then, COVID-19 happened. Just 90,000 international arrivals were reported in 2021—a 97% fall.

Related: First Protests, Now Coronavirus: Inside Hong Kong’s Year of Turbulence

China, including Hong Kong, had some of the toughest policies in the world. Reopening was delayed multiple times due to a surge in infections and it was only last year that Hong Kong started easing restrictions. China only reopened the border with Hong Kong in January. Mask mandates have dropped after 945 days. Now, the destination is going full throttle to win people all over again. And that starts with 500,000 free flight tickets.

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“Hello, Hong Kong” is a $2 billion campaign and the Airport Authority Hong Kong is spending $250 million on free tickets. There are 500,000 free tickets to Hong Kong up for grabs—Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airlines, Greater Bay Airlines, and HK Express are participating in this giveaway that has already begun for Southeast Asian countries. 

Winners will win free economy round-trip tickets on a first-come-first-serve basis, but they may be charged taxes and a surcharge.

Travelers from Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia can enroll on the website. For U.S. travelers, the raffle opens on May 1. Mark your calendar for the event, so you can register as soon as it opens.

And if you’re in this part of the world, it might make sense to take a two-hour flight to Taiwan and make the best of another offer as well.

Taiwan’s Pay Out Plan

This January, Taiwan gave cash payouts of around $200 to every citizen to share its economic growth as a New Year’s blessing. Now they’re also planning to hand out cash to tourists.

Taiwan has announced that it will offer $165 to individual tourists to vacation there and up to $658 to tour groups. Around 500,000 individuals and 90,000 tour groups will benefit from this new scheme. These electronic tourist cards would be used on hotels, accommodations, and activities, so this money will go back into the country. It is not known how travelers can apply for this.

This is also Taiwan’s bid to get travelers back on its streets–the dropped from 11.86 million tourists in 2019 to around 900,000 in 2022. It fully reopened its borders in October and it has a goal of bringing 6 million international travelers to the island.

Related: I Traveled to Taiwan During the Coronavirus Outbreak—Here’s What Happened

Frontier’s GoWild! Pass

This one’s a special treat closer to home. Frontier has introduced a GoWild! Pass for $499 for the summer or $1,499 for the year which will let you book unlimited flights for free. The travel period starts on May 2 and you will have to be super flexible to make the most of it. Domestic travels can be booked just a day in advance, while for international travels, you have 10 days before departure. Some blackout dates also apply and taxes and add-ons like seats and bags aren’t included—read the terms carefully before you click buy.

frm108 March 7, 2023

Thanks for this infromation.  Can you plese provide a link as to how to access the rafle on May 1st?  Thank you.