Hong Kong, Toronto: Different steps post SARS

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HONG KONG -- The Hong Kong Tourist Board June 9 said it will offer a "2 for 1" promotion, "Hong Kong Welcomes You," July 13 to Sept. 15 with Continental, United, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, Singapore Airlines and the tour operators who partner with them to attract travelers to the city as it recoups from the SARS outbreak.

Examples of the promotion, which include a three-night package from Pacific Delight Tours, priced at $1,098 for two people sharing a room; it includes roundtrip air from New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles. A three-night Orient Flexi Pax package, also for two guests, with air, is priced at $888.

Similarly priced packages are available from Ritz Tours, Pacific Protours, United Vacations, Aberdeen Tours, Pleasant Holidays, Gala Tours, Grand Holidays and several other operators.

The introduction of the "Hong Kong Welcomes You" recovery program, however, came amid fervent pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong June 9 and eight days earlier, as hundreds of thousands of city residents protested the consideration of a Beijing-backed internal security bill.

In other SARS-related developments -- and in contrast to Hong Kong's seemingly aggressive bounce-back program -- Toronto is sticking with its strategy of trying to attract Canadian visitors and counting international tourism as a loss for the summer.

That battle plan comes despite the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention removed its travel alert for Toronto June 8, citing the absence of any new SARS cases there over the prior 30 days.

The CDC reprieve came six days after the World Health Organization erased the Toronto entry on its list of SARS-infected areas.

The CDC warning had been in place since May 23, when it was reinstated after being lifted April 29.

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