Vacation Destinations in Europe, Asia Lure Travelers With Hotels, Flights, Cash

  • Destinations in Europe and Asia are offering travelers major financial incentives to visit. 
  • The Italian island Sicily is offering tourists discounted airfare and one free night in a hotel. 
  • Taiwan said it will pay international visitors $165 and Hong Kong is giving away 500,000 free flights. 

Getting paid to travel is usually a line either associated with wishful thinking or a scam. But this time, you’re in luck — it’s the real deal. 

Some of Asia and Europe’s top travel destinations are offering visitors serious financial incentives in hopes of reviving tourism back to pre-pandemic levels. 

The governments of Sicily, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are pumping billions into the programs, which range from free flights, hotel stays, and excursions — to straight cash. 

Here’s how you can take advantage of the initiatives on your next vacation: 

Italy, Sicily, Taormina.

Taormina, the town in Sicily where White Lotus Season 2 was filmed.

Gary Yeowell/Getty Images

Sicily, a historic island in the South of Italy, first launched its “See Sicily” travel promotion two years ago and recently announced its revival for 2023. 

Through the voucher program, visitors who book three nights at an affiliated hotel receive an extra night free of charge. The package also includes 50% off your flight or ferry ride to the island and a free local “excursion” like a walking tour or scuba diving. 

The tricky part is that you have to book the trip through a local travel agency. The website lists dozens of affiliated travel agents by region, including popular tourist hubs Catania and Palermo. But as The Washington Post’s travel reporter Andrea Sachs experienced first-hand, that can mean sending dozens of emails (and getting ghosted by the few who answer). 

Reading the fine print also reveals that the flight discount is only for trips departing before September 30, with the months of July and August excluded from the deal entirely. And while the promotion is advertised as 50% off, the maximum discount is 100€ for domestic flights and 200€ for international flights. 

Tourists walking on the Bitoujiao trail in Rueifang District, in New Taipei City on March 1, 2020.

Tourists walking on the Bitoujiao trail in Rueifang District, in New Taipei City on March 1, 2020.

SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images

Taiwan’s promotion is less complicated, but potentially less lucrative too. 

Premier Chen Chien-jen announced last week that the Republic of China plans to give away $165 to 500,000 tourists who visit the East Asian island, according to CNN Travel. A total of 90,000 tour groups will also be awarded $658, the report says. 

Earlier this winter, Taiwan also launched a two-for-one deal for international tourists purchasing high-speed rail tickets. The promotion also includes “various discounts on accommodation, attraction tickets and shopping,” the Tourism Bureau says. 

Both initiatives are part of Taiwan’s efforts to attract six million tourists this year and 10 million visitors by 2025.

The central district of Hong Kong.

The central district of Hong Kong.


After years of strict COVID-19 restrictions, Hong Kong is giving out 500,000 free plane tickets to visitors from around the world, with a portion of the flights reserved for travelers from the US. 

Starting March 1, the tickets will be distributed by airlines Hong Kong Express, Cathay Pacific, and Hong Kong Airlines, Time Out reported. 

The promotion is part of the “Hello Hong Kong” campaign designed to tell the world that Hong Kong is back open for international travel, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said at a press conference. 

“Hong Kong is now connected to mainland China and the whole international world, and there will be no isolation, no quarantine and no restrictions on … enjoying the hustle and bustle of Asia’s world city,”  Hong Kong leader John Lee said during the February announcement, per Reuters.

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