Tourist gripes have a whiff of unreality about them

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 January, 2008, 12:00am

Tourists turned off by Peak fee

SCMP headline, January 19

Visitors from mainland bemoan city 'filled with the stink of money'

SCMP headline, January 21

Whinge, whinge, whinge, whinge, whinge. With more than 15 million visitors a year from the mainland there must indeed be some who are cheated here but I wouldn't number the ones whom we quoted under these headlines as among them.

The bunch that objected to paying HK$20 a person to look at the view from the Peak Tower's observation deck strikes me as a case of the biter bit.

You know how it is when you go on a tour on the mainland and you stop by a supposed historical site or the 19th pagoda of the day and, before you can take a step inside, someone wants 20 yuan.

So then you pay and you think your ticket will take you right through the ... uhh ... attraction but, oh no, you reach the next gate and someone wants another 20 yuan. You were only admitted to the outer reaches.

I avoid the Peak Tower except as a corridor to the Peak Tram. It's stuffed full of the most appalling kitsch ever put on a shop shelf and it has 'This Is A Tourist Trap' written on every beam. If the tourists can't read, well, the place is privately owned and I can't get worked up if the owners make some money by biting the biters.

As to that couple complaining about the stink of money in Hong Kong, I suppose they were attracted here by the prospect of birdsong as in 'cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap'.

They paid HK$3,000 to an agency in Hainan for a four-day tour of Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai and actually seemed to think that this was enough to cover their return fare, accommodation, coach tours and sundry costs plus leave a reasonable return for the agent and the tour operator.

They are not the first mainland tourists who couldn't or wouldn't use their heads to figure it out. In consequence, they spent most of their time being pressured through the usual line of nasty shops so that the people who took them to and around this town could make a living from it. If the visitors didn't like the smell of this they shouldn't have brought that smell with them.

And get this. Hubby actually claimed to be a professor of western economic history. Do you wonder why I think these academics live on a different planet?

US President George W. Bush yesterday called for about US$145 billion worth of tax relief to stimulate a sagging US economy and fend off a possible recession. 'Letting Americans keep more of their money should increase consumer spending,' he said.

SCMP, January 19

Isee that George the Genius and Bush the Peacemaker are now getting a makeover to create Dubya the Monetary Wizard.

What will the public relations industry think of next?

I concede that he has the backing of Federal Reserve Board chairman Ben 'Helicopter' Bernanke, who is of the published view, never yet recanted, that to cure recession you just sprinkle newly printed money on people's heads. Who am I to dispute these matters with such a recognised authority?

But this does still leave me with one troubling question. If I decide to help you by giving you $145, do I really help you by pinching your wallet and taking the $145 out of it before I give this money back to you?

You will notice from the chart that our paragon of conservatism who infests the White House managed to convert a record fiscal surplus into a record fiscal deficit within just three years of taking office and still presides over an annual deficit of about US$200 billion, all of which has caused US federal debt to rise by 63 per cent to US$9.3 trillion.

So how will he compose his relief package? Could it be that he can only do it by going even deeper into debt? Could it be that he will take US$145 billion out of the pockets of American consumers by selling them US$145 billion more in Treasury bonds before dunning them of US$145 billion less in taxes?

Hmmm ... you know I think that this is exactly what he will do and somehow I don't see that this really counts as 'letting Americans keep more of their money'.

A good example of letting them keep more of their money would actually be to reduce government expenditure, particularly by putting an end to wasteful military adventurism, but, unfortunately, this thought might so overload the neural capacity of George the Genius as to blow a few fuses up there.