THE Government's decision to extend operating hours at Kai Tak airport could boost tourism revenue by $4.3 billion a year, the Hong Kong Tourist Association (HKTA) said yesterday. HKTA executive director Amy Chan said the extra flights could also 'enhance Hong Kong's position as the aviation hub of Asia at this very important time in our economic development'. 'These new, temporary measures would help Kai Tak cope with the additional demands on air traffic while recognising the vital need to keep noise levels at an acceptable standard,' Ms Chan said. Michael Li, executive director of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, also welcomed the extension but said he sympathised with nearby residents who would have to put up with more noise. 'We have long recognised that the present limitations on airline schedules, resulting from the nightly closure of the airport, have curtailed arrivals and departures to the point where tourist movements have suffered,' Mr Li said. 'As a consequence of this, Hong Kong has been denied the growth we would have liked to see in our visitor trends.' Mr Li said airlines and tour operators had found it difficult to schedule flights which fitted in conveniently with some group itineraries. 'In the interests of the second largest contributor to Hong Kong's economy, we naturally welcome any move that will overcome this difficulty,' he said. 'But we also recognise that there is a price to pay and we commiserate with those residents in the vicinity of the airport who will be subjected to the additional noise that will result from those extended hours of operation.' He said the residents' sole consolation was that it would be a short-term penalty until the new airport came on line in 1997. The Hong Kong Hotels Association said the extension would help to ease flight congestion at the airport. Association vice-chairman Ivan Lee said during certain periods of the year some hotel guests failed to turn up as they were unable to obtain flights to Hong Kong. Mr Lee said the extra tourists would benefit hotels as well as retailers.