Concessions tipped to boost tourism
Dennis Eng and Gary Cheung
The tourism industry expects a boost in arrivals from the mainland and less cutthroat competition as a result of Hong Kong travel agents being allowed to set up wholly owned Guangdong operations for tours to the city and Macau.
The measures, under the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, also let Hong Kong travel agencies sell air tickets. It is the first time outbound mainland tourism has been opened to non-mainland firms.
Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai said the potential market for mainland travel to Hong Kong was huge.
'An average of 22,000 mainland couples tie the knot every day. If just 1 per cent of them go to Hong Kong and Macau for their wedding or honeymoon, marriages would be a daily event in these two cities.'
Hong Kong Tourism Board chairwoman Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee welcomed the concessions for travel agents.
'The rich experience of Hong Kong's travel agencies can help raise the service standard of their counterparts,' Mrs Chow said.
Hong Kong Inbound Travel Association president Paul Leung Yiu-lam said he hoped that this 'first good step' would lead to similar liberalisation elsewhere in the Pearl River Delta, as well as in Shanghai.
'The impact won't be immediate but business should be up by more than 10 per cent if operators start setting up shop next year,' Mr Leung said.
He said the ability to build a brand name on the mainland would ease downward pressure on tour prices and see less price-cutting as customers sought out high- quality service.