Speech at Panel on Economic Development

The Intermodal Transfer Terminal development project at the Hong Kong International Airport and the associated fitting-out works for Government facilities

Passenger throughput and utilization of ITT

Mr CHAN Chun-ying expressed support for the ITT project which would offer greater convenience to transfer passengers travelling between HKIA and Mainland/Macao via the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (“HZMB”). He said that sharp decreases in air and sea passenger throughput had been recorded since the outbreak of COVID-19, and that the aviation industry was expected to recover in 2023 the earliest. As ITT would be commissioned in 2022, he enquired about the latest estimate on passenger throughput of ITT taking into account of the current situation and the development of the pandemic.

DSTH4 advised that ITT was a strategic project to meet the long term need. According to the estimate made before the outbreak of COVID-19, ITT would handle about 3 million passengers per year. The impact of the pandemic on passenger throughput should not be long term and AAHK would monitor and promote the ITT usage as part of its recovery plan when travel demand picked up again. As it was anticipated that the demand of transfer passengers from the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (“GBA”) to travel via HKIA would recover gradually after the pandemic had subsided, it was necessary for the Administration to undertake the works of the ITT project and the associated Government facilities now with a view to meeting the demand in future.

Benefits and impact

Mr CHAN Chun-ying enquired about the estimate on the benefits, in particular the number of jobs to be created and the income, to be brought about by the ITT project.

DSTH4 advised that no such estimation had been made in relation to this development project alone. However, the commissioning of various projects like the three-runway system (“3RS”), the relevant ancillary services at HKIA, as well as the service demand brought by the transfer passengers of ITT would contribute to the creation of plenty of job opportunities. He gave the example of 3RS, and said that it was estimated that after the commissioning of 3RS, there would be a working population of around 120 000 at HKIA compared to 78 000 at present. The number could reach up to 160 000 if indirect employment was included.

Progress of establishing travel bubbles with overseas economies

Details of the ATB arrangement with Singapore

Mr CHAN Chun-ying enquired about the negotiations with other economies the travel bubble arrangements and the suspension mechanism. In particular, he asked about the thresholds for triggering the mechanism if the arrangement was made with the economies which were much different from Hong Kong in terms of geographical area, population, etc. SCED responded that any new travel bubble arrangement and suspension mechanism would be formulated on a case-by-case basis depending on the specific situation of the target economies and the bilateral discussions.

SCED said that as there were no restriction on travel purposes under the ATB arrangement with Singapore, it would not only benefit the travel sector, but also enable resumption of cross-border travel for various purposes like business activities, official visits, family reunion and study, thereby enabling Hong Kong’s economy to recover gradually amid the long-drawn battle against COVID-19.

SCED added that to support the travel sector, assistance had been provided under the Employment Support Scheme and the Anti-epidemic Fund since the end of 2019. The funding allotted to the travel sector under three rounds of the Fund amounted to $1.7 billion. The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (“CEDB”) had coordinated the reopening of the two local theme parks, collaborated with the Environment Bureau to roll out the Green Lifestyle Local Tour Incentive Scheme, and administered the exemption for local group tours from the group gathering restriction subject to a set of requirements. The Labour and Welfare Bureau had provided suitable assistance to those intended to switch to work in other industries.

Mr CHAN Chun-ying enquired about the rationale for adopting a different approach for this bilateral ATB arrangement with Singapore such that outbound Hong Kong travellers would be required to apply for the Air Travel Pass before departure and make use of the TraceTogether app during the trip while inbound Singapore travellers would not be subject to similar requirements in Hong Kong. He said that according to the findings of the Polytechnic University, the exclusion of certain inbound people from the mandatory COVID-19 tests might be the cause of the third wave of the disease in Hong Kong. Hence, more measures should be put in place to curb the spreading of the disease due to inbound people.

SCED said that procedures for travelling under the ATB arrangement with Singapore, similar to other disease prevention and control measures, would not be totally the same in Hong Kong and Singapore because of the need to cater for respective local situation. For example, travellers going to Singapore would only be required to take a pre-departure COVID-19 PCR nucleic acid test whereas travellers to Hong Kong would be required to take not just a pre-departure test but also another COVID-19 PCR nucleic acid test upon arrival and would only be allowed to leave HKIA after obtaining a negative result for the PCR nucleic acid test. HKIA would also implement measures to segregate such travellers. Hence, the health protection measures imposed by Hong Kong were relatively more stringent. Other measures included the use of designated flights for ATB travellers, and that all air crew serving on those flights to Hong Kong must take and pass the COVID-19 PCR nucleic acid test within 72 hours prior to the flight departure and would not be allowed to serve on other non-designated flights after obtaining a negative test result and before serving on the designated flights. In fact, all inbound travellers were highly encouraged to use the LeaveHomeSafe mobile app when they were in Hong Kong and they must comply with the prevailing disease prevention and control measures.