Why despite political unrest, it’s still a great time to visit Hong Kong
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It’s been quite a year for the people of Hong Kong as sometimes-violent protests and trade troubles between the United States and China have led to recession and a steep drop in tourism. As we reported, the number of visitors to the city has plummeted as protests, at times, have shut down parts of the city and its efficient metro system. The airport has even been forced to close on occasion.
Still, most travel experts believe the city is perfectly safe to visit, and I actually think it’s a great time to go. In fact, I returned from an incredible five-night trip to the Pearl of the Orient just last month.
There were protests; in fact I actively sought them out. I wanted to see for myself what it was like on the ground. I never felt physically threatened despite getting quite close to both protesters and the police.
The main thing to know is that the protests can easily be avoided by tourists. All the hotels know exactly where protests are happening at all times. They explain to visitors what areas to avoid and what spots might see protests — sometimes days ahead of time. Many of the luxury hotels even have live feeds of protests from their stands at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) and can help guide guests on how to get transportation and wether it’s better to go by train, taxi or shuttle.
And in recent days, protests have mostly died down after elections were held for district councils last week, and pro-democracy candidates took 87% of the seats.
There’s no guarantees, but I think the bargains you can find in a visit easily outweigh any potential for disruptions.
Of course, not everyone agrees. Karl Gooden is a frequent business traveller in Asia. He told TPG, “While self aware travelers will likely be fine, I would certainly be hesitant in stating that it’s ‘perfectly’ safe given the ongoing violent protests and uncertainty.” He acknowledged fares are very competitive right now for flights into and out of Hong Kong. He said, “travelers just need to use common sense and be prudent about their surroundings if traveling directly into Hong Kong.”
Prices are lower for flights and hotels and you can even find good deals on restaurants. As an added bonus, popular sightseeing destinations are not crowded. I’m told the wait for the tram to Victoria Peak can be hours long. When I visited in late October, there was no waiting. There was also plenty of room to take in the spectacular nightly 8:00 p.m. light show in Victoria Harbor from Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront.
TPG has reported widely on the cheap airfares (in business and coach) to Hong Kong, falling as low as $379 r/t in coach.
There’s also been a lot more award seats available than is normal, including a bunch of first and business class seats, as TPG found back in September.
For my trip, I booked premium economy via Expedia with five hotel nights for just $1,669. I ended up tossing the booked hotel — the Lander Hotel Prince Edward — and made reservations at higher-end hotels, but that’s still a heck of a deal. It helped me get to Platinum Pro elite status on American Airlines for next year. I thought it would code as a higher fare class, which is why I often book via Expedia or American Airlines Vacations. It didn’t end up getting me extra bonus mileage, but I did get more than 24,000 in EQMs, and $1,437 in EQDs. And the Expedia price was better than that offered on AA.com.
Hotels are generally about 25% less than normal right now. Lodging data provider STR reports average room rates were HK$1,079 (US$137) in September. Hyatt and Hilton reported steep drops in revenue over the summer, and deals are still plentiful.
I was able to stay four nights at the five-star Langham hotel. It is one of the most fabulous hotels in Kowloon very close to the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade, the Star ferry, museums and lots of high-end shopping. I saw rates as low as $138 per night in December. Rooms can go for $1000 a night and up at the hotel. They are offering a special Black Friday deal until Dec. 1, with rates as low as $178/night. I highly recommend the Langham.
On my last night, I stayed at the incredible Mira Moon Hotel on the north side of Hong Kong Island. TPG has reviewed this hotel before, and I agree with Ethan Steinberg that it’s a great hotel. I was able to redeem my Marriott Bonvoy free night certificate at the very last minute for a hotel that regularly goes for 35,000 Bonvoy points. Normally this hotel goes for about $200 a night, but right now a quick search shows rates as low as $126 a night using cash.
If you’re new to the points-and-miles game, or you’re looking to get a Marriott Bonvoy credit card, three of the four options — the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card— come with welcome offers that can easily cover two nights in a 35,000-point Category 5 or below hotel, at the standard rate, in Hong Kong. The Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card bonus will cover two nights off-peak at a Category 5 or below hotel.
Related reading: Which Marriott Bonvoy credit card is right for you?
So if you’re looking for a trip of lifetime at a steep discount and you are not afraid of political turmoil, Hong Kong offers a good opportunity right now.
Featured photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy.
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