Festivities for 10th anniversary of handover spur tourist arrivals

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 August, 2007, 12:00am

Tourist arrivals in the first 25 days of last month rose 10.8 per cent compared to a year ago, with mainland visitor numbers jumping 15 per cent, the Hong Kong Tourism Board said yesterday.

The remarkable increase, especially among mainlanders, was largely expected given the celebrations surrounding the 10th anniversary of the handover on July 1, including the public debut of two giant panda cubs.

The robust results, however, were accompanied by calls for more to be done to tackle sub-standard or unscrupulous tours, which target mainland visitors and tarnish Hong Kong's image.

Tourism Board chairman James Tien Pei-chun said arrivals in July could reach some 2.42 million if the entire month enjoyed the same growth recorded so far.

This would bring the seven-month total this year to about 15.45 million and keep Hong Kong on track to achieve the board's full-year target of 26.4 million visitors. Arrivals in July last year totalled more than 2.18 million, of which almost 1.2 million came from the mainland.

But in the latest incident surrounding mainland package tours, a 25-member group from Jiangsu province complained that their itinerary in Hong Kong differed from what was described to them when they booked the tour.

The tourists accused their guide of taking them to five spots within eight hours of arriving in Hong Kong and complained to police about ill treatment and a tight schedule.

The case is being investigated by the Travel Industry Council and preliminary findings show that the tour group was sold to travel agents in Nanjing , Shenzhen and finally Hong Kong.

Tourism commissioner Au King-chi expressed concern about the incident in a letter to the China National Tourism Administration on Thursday. She said the practice of buying and selling tour groups was a concern, and could have contributed to the complaints. 'This could affect the quality of the tour or the itinerary,' Ms Au said. 'Do we know if the travel agent in Hong Kong is qualified to operate this tour?'

The local travel agent, Good Friendship Limited, has said that it delivered the full itinerary.

Cause to rejoice

The 10th anniversary handover celebrations gave tourism an expected boost

The rise in mainland visitors in the first 25 days of July over last year was 15%