The huge influx of mainland tourists has given rise to conflict over their impact on our shopping neighbourhoods. But if there is one issue on which we could empathise with them, it was the notorious practice of "forced shopping" at designated venues to make up for cheap packaged tours. The villains of this stain on the city's reputation were tour guides who acted as enforcers, to the point of abusing reluctant shoppers. It made a comeback in one incident recently after the authorities had put in place rules and practices to deter it.
Now, however, the boot is on the other foot. Three times last week tour guides were attacked, following a case last month in which a court fined a tourist HK$1,500 for injuring a guide after being denied a chance to visit Disneyland. In the latest incidents, a female guide needed hospital treatment for neck injuries after being grabbed by a 32-year-old tourist, who was fined HK$3,000 and ordered to pay HK$1,000 compensation. In another, a 38-year-old tourist escaped legal action after writing an apology to a male guide with whom he had scuffled after being told not to smoke. The other incident was also related to smoking in public, a habit that sets Hong Kong and the mainland apart. The assailant intervened when the guide reprimanded one of her party for littering with a cigarette butt.
Given the volume of cross-border tourism, publicity for such incidents can give mainlanders an undeserved reputation that does nothing to smooth social tensions arising from the pressure of tourism on the city's infrastructure. After all, our courts and law enforcers are all too familiar with visitors from other countries, often the worse for drink, who behave in ways they would not dream of at home.
Better regulation and education of the cross-border tourism industry has paid dividends. There is room for the industry to do more to see that visitors are familiarised with local customs. There is no better time for such an initiative, with arrivals due to surge during the National Day holiday in little over a month. But it should not be confined to visitors from China.