Tourism industry's problems can be solved only by a statutory body
Currently the Travel Industry Council shoulders responsibility for self-regulating the tourism industry.
However, the incidents involving forced shopping and clashes between tour guides and holidaymakers have been the focus of many news reports.
They have cast doubt on the ability of the council to uphold Hong Kong's reputation and to discipline those tour agencies which have behaved so badly. The tourism industry is a vital source of income for Hong Kong and self-regulation is not working. The government must play a more prominent role.
The council has been criticised for having a conflict of interest and for not being able to prevent a repeat of the these quarrels between guides and the visitors on their tours. This criticism is justified.
Given the strong representation of tour agencies on its board, the council is in effect a trade association. It is therefore inappropriate for it to look into other agencies' account books during investigations. It is no wonder it gives the impression of there being a lack of transparency.
I believe that the government should set up an independent statutory body to regulate the industry fairly and openly.
There would no conflict of interest issues facing such an organisation.
It would not be dogged by the failings of the council and it could help to restore confidence in the tourism industry especially in the eyes of mainland visitors.
The root cause of the compulsory shopping is that many guides do not have a basic salary and must rely on commissions for their livelihood.
A statutory body could be given the power to set a minimum charge for inbound tours and a salary for guides.
Tourism is one of Hong Kong's key industries and the government has a responsibility to ensure that a high quality of service is maintained and the sector continues to grow in a sustainable manner. It is clear that self-regulation is not working. With the concerted effort of tour agencies and the administration I think these goals can be achieved.
Kate Chan Kwan-hang, Tsuen Wan