Is 2023 a year of expensive travel?

January 18, 2023 11:10
Photo: Reuters

How much are you willing to pay for your first trip in three years?

Well, depending on who and when, it could be quite costly for Hong Kong travellers.

Travellers who want to go outside Hong Kong during the upcoming Lunar Chinese New Year would find themselves paying much more than it was before China started allowing its citizens to travel after nearly three years of travel restrictions.

Friends leaving for Japan, the always No.1 destination for locals because of its proximity, nice surroundings and above all, food, said they are paying double, if not triple, room rates than last year.

But of course, they are just grumbling. They are still happy to pay the bills because to many, it was a long overdue vacation.

Hotel room rates skyrocketed everywhere after 8 January as the Chinese resumed travel. One close friend who originally planned to stay in Taipei for one week had found a better hotel bargain in Hong Kong.

Accordingly, the room rate shot up four times to HK$8,000 per night from HK$1,700 per night in the core Taipei district. My friend ended up cutting short his Taipei tour and returned to Hong Kong.

If Taiwan saw a sharp surge in hotel rates, a similar hike would likely happen in Macao – and other mainlanders’ favourite destinations including Hong Kong, where a million mainlanders are expected to arrive over the New Year period.

It has not happened yet. When I took a casual walk around Harbour City, Hong Kong’s largest shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui yesterday, there was no lineup outside global top luxury brands there, but things are moving in a good direction.

But for Hong Kong outbound travellers, their advantage has been shrinking in the past month as the US dollar, to which the Hong Kong dollar is pegged, fell around five per cent against major currencies.

If travel cost is not an issue, flight capacity might be.

HK Express, the budget airline owned by Cathay Pacific, cancelled dozens more flights to Tokyo, Osaka and Okinawa in the first two weeks of February as Japan imposed limits on the number of flights each carrier can operate from Hong Kong to Japan.

For those planning to go this month, chances are their itinerary would be disrupted by Cathay’s union work-to-rule strike starting 19 January.

The union complained about manpower cut on flights, reduction in welfare and excessive workload. Flights between Hong Kong and Japan, for instance, had only four flight attendants, instead of the usual seven crew members to serve 288 passengers in the premium economy and economy class on each flight, the union reportedly claimed.

Have a safe and happy trip in 2023, the year of resumed travel!

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EJ Insight writer