Chinese tourists

Individual visit scheme to Hong Kong 'shouldn't be expanded', says tourism chief

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 February, 2013, 5:18pm

No more mainland cities should be added to the individual visit scheme until Hong Kong has the infrastructure to cope with them, the tourism chief and a former Legislative Council president said yesterday.

Tourism Board chairman James Tien Pei-chun and Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, a member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, made the remarks separately yesterday in response to the latest incidents involving mainland tourists over the Lunar New Year holiday.

The scheme, begun in 2003, now allows 270 million residents of 49 mainland cities to visit Hong Kong in an individual capacity rather than in tour groups.

"Hong Kong should be given the time to improve our facilities. That would ensure tourists have an enjoyable stay, with fewer unhappy incidents," Fan said at a spring reception for the Heung Yee Kuk.

In the latest incident, at least five mainland tour groups were left without adequate accommodation because their agencies failed to secure hotel rooms before their arrival.

It is believed four of the groups were the responsibility of 3A Holidays, whose proprietor failed to show up at a meeting with the Travel Industry Council (TIC) on Friday.

Some 2.3 million travellers entered the city between February 9 and Thursday, of whom nearly 750,000 were from the mainland, immigration records show. Tien said overall visitor numbers were up 21 per cent year on year, and mainland visitor numbers grew 27 per cent.

Tien said the board was concerned about 3A Holidays mistreating tourists.

"TIC members [tour agencies] pay the council membership fees. They are also friendly with the board members, meaning it is hard for the watchdog to punish its members harshly," he said.