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August 22, 2008

Hong Kong for Less

PEARL OF THE ORIENT: Central Hong Kong as seen from the "Peak" (Digital Vision)

We don't usually promote package deals here on Blog Central, but we couldn't resist the savings on this all-inclusive tour to Hong Kong, which is being touted by, of all people, the Irvine Chamber of Commerce in California. Sign up by September 1 to book a spot on a nine-day guided swing through Hong Kong, Macau, and South China's Guangzhou province, departing on November 2. Included in the $2,399 per person rate (inclusive of tax and based on double occupancy) are roundtrip airfare, all hotel accommodations, most meals, transfers, transport, and tour guides. By comparison, we ran a quick search of comparable self-built packages via the usual online suspects (Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity) and the cheapest air-hotel deals hovered at $2,000 and up. So factoring in extra daily meal costs, ferry transfer to places like Macau, and other organized tour costs you might bite off, you'll definitely come out several hundred dollars ahead with this custom package.

But wait, you say, this is offered by a local chamber of commerce? Surely that means a coterie of deal-hungry businessmen (and the occasional footloose Irvine retiree) being packed on a bus to look like sightseers, but who are really there to strike lucrative backroom trade deals. We had the same thought, so followed up with Linda Benjamin, senior vice president at the Irvine Chamber, to get the scoop. Turns out this deal is about as good as it's gonna get (with a few caveats about signing up for an itinerary that's heavy on tour-bus sightseeing, some scripted evening entertainment, and a little bit of pre-planned salesmanship from local merchants). Following on from a successful tour of Beijing last year, Benjamin tells us that this year's trip is intended, yes, in part to put down trade roots that may benefit Irvine's business community, but also to offer participants—Irvine residents and non-residents alike, we should add—a fun opportunity to explore one of the world's most exciting and dynamic cities. These trips also present a modest fundraising opportunity, she notes, with the chamber taking a $200 cut from each Hong Kong package sold. There are business-related presentations and meet-and-greets planned, but these are entirely optional for the joyriders in the group.

The trip is open to any interested parties over the age of 18, with airfare available out of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York's JFK. Visit for more information. This style of travel might not be for everyone, but if it is, here's your chance to get to Hong Kong for less and taste what this great part of the world has to offer.

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