At the height of the panic, Hong Kong's airport was handling just 20% of its normal passenger flow, and hotel occupancy rates were even lower than that. Those numbers have been soaring recently, thanks to a surge in visitors from mainland China, taking advantage of relaxed visa rules. To lure more big-spending long-haul travelers, the tourist association has launched a worldwide advertising blitz starring Jackie Chan. (The punch line: "Hong Kong: Live it. Love it!") And now the government is underwriting an ambitious fall concert schedule featuring pop acts Craig David, Westlife and Santana, and tenor José Carreras. The Stones gigs (Nov. 7 and 9) will have special resonance: the old rockers cited SARS fears when they canceled two March dates in Hong Kong. They then drew 450,000 fans to a July concert in Toronto, helping that city bounce back from a SARS-induced tourist slump.
Another kind of music—the jingling of cash registers—can be heard in the city's restaurants, which are now reporting a post-SARS boom. Almost every week, there's a splashy opening of a hot new place. The next big debut: the InterContinental hotel's Spoon, managed by French chef Alain Ducasse.
But perhaps the most definitive proof of Hong Kong's rebound is the disappearance of deep discounts on airline fares. The best deal still available is from flag carrier Cathay Pacific, aimed at travelers from the U.S.: a round-trip ticket from San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York costs $999, and includes a further stop in one of 17 other Asian cities. Lufthansa offers one of the best fares from Europe, from London for $795.