Hong Kong’s international dragon boat races return after 4-year hiatus
HONG KONG– Thousands of paddlers descended on Hong Kong on Saturday to take part in the financial hub’s International Dragon Boat competition, held for the first time in more than 4 years after they were halted due to anti-government protests and COVID-19.
The two-day event, organized by Hong Kong’s tourism board and the Hong Kong China Dragon Boat Association, drew more than 4,000 paddlers from 160 teams including from the Chinese mainland, Taiwan and internationally, its tourism body said.
“It’s a great place to come back to, especially after a four-year hiatus. Can’t think of a better way to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival than with my team and the rest of Hong Kong and Asia,” said Shirleen Ho, 41, a member of the Australian National Dragon boat team.
While dragon boat originated in China’s southern Lingnan region more than 1,000 years, the modern version began in Hong Kong, a special Chinese administrative region, around 40 years ago.
The event, held in the city’s iconic Victoria Harbour between the financial district and the bustling Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront promenade, drew scores of visitors who came to watch the high paced races.
The competition is one of many events the Hong Kong government is holding to boost tourism and reinvigorate its economy after sealing its borders for more than two years.
Hong Kong in 2020 closed its borders to international travelers to contain the spread of infections, and mandated tough rules including up to three weeks hotel quarantine for all arrivals and mandatory testing.
The measures put many people off traveling to the former British colony, even after the rules were lifted in late 2022, and led to an exodus of hundreds of thousands of people since 2020. Monthly visitor numbers are only around 50% of the average visitor numbers seen in 2017-2019, prior to the pandemic.