Simulated travelers line up at Shenzhen Bay Control Point to cross the boundary on Jan 5, 2023 as part of a drill to ensure smooth operation of the control points at the beginning of the resumption of normal travel with the mainland from Sunday. (PHOTO / INFORMATION SERVICES DEPARTMENT, HKSAR)

Principal officials of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and social groups welcomed the resumption of normal cross-border travel, anticipating that various sectors will initiate more exchange activities with the mainland this year, including exchanges and training for civil servants. 

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu announced on Thursday that Hong Kong will reopen four more border checkpoints, allowing 60,000 Hong Kong residents a day to enter the Chinese mainland starting Sunday without quarantine.

The Federation of Hong Kong Industries, in a statement on Thursday, said the resumption of cross-border travel will help stimulate the tourism and retail trades on both sides of the border

Secretary for the Civil Service Ingrid Yeung Ho Poi-yan said with the resumption of normal travel, the Civil Service College — which has been in operation for more than a year — will start to plan training courses, inspection tours and other exchange activities with the mainland. These activities are expected to begin this year.

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She added that it was crucial for Hong Kong civil servants to have a better understanding of the latest developments on the mainland, as well as of relevant national strategies and plans, and hopes that civil servants can make good use of the training opportunities to better serve the development needs of the city and the country.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po expects the move to bring remarkable growth in visitor numbers and cross-boundary land and air cargo traffic, adding greater impetus to the recovery of Hong Kong's export, tourism, retail and catering industries.

He also said that various sectors believe Hong Kong's economic prospects will be more positive this year and the city needs to leverage its unique advantages as a connector between the mainland and the rest of the world, and to continue to actively integrate into the overall development of the country — including strengthening the free flow of talent, capital and goods in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, secretary for culture, sports and tourism, said that the Hong Kong Tourism Board has been stepping up publicity and promotion efforts on the mainland and other places to provide accurate information in a bid to promote the recovery of the tourism industry.

Yeung also expressed hopes for hosting more face-to-face exchange activities on sports and culture with the mainland and other places this year by reactivating the mechanisms established before COVID struck. 

He pledged to make full use of the restoration of cross-boundary travel to place Hong Kong’s charm on the international stage and to tell China stories well by leveraging the cultural strength of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. 

Government Chief Information Officer Tony Wong Chi-kwong said the online reservation system for cross-border travel between Hong Kong and the mainland is running smoothly, with more than 286,000 people having successfully booked their travel arrangements as of 8am on Friday, following the booking system’s implementation at 6pm on Thursday.  

READ MORE: HK to expand mainland training scheme for civil servants

Allen Shi Lop-tak, president of the Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong, said the border reopening will mean that businesspeople can return to the mainland to start their businesses in the New Year and recover some of the losses they have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic. He added that the return of mainland tourists to the city will provide a lifeline to all industries in Hong Kong and help speed up economic recovery.

The Federation of Hong Kong Industries, in a statement on Thursday, said the resumption of cross-border travel will help stimulate the tourism and retail trades on both sides of the border and accelerate economic recovery in Hong Kong. Business visits to the mainland and the flexible deployment of manpower will facilitate further development and expansion of Hong Kong businesses in the mainland.

Expressing support for the resumption of cross-boundary travels, Tam Yiu-chung, a member of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, said it will facilitate those who wish to go back to their hometown for family reunions before the Chinese New Year. In light of the heavy traffic recorded by the booking system, Tam suggests that the government upgrade the system to cater to the needs of those who have difficulty using the internet for bookings.