TOURISTS who have their Lunar New Year holidays affected by the Cathay Pacific strike will be entitled to a full refund and reimbursement of visa costs by travel agents, the Travel Industry Council said yesterday. Council chairman Mr Peter Siu King-sang said council members would be asked to give customers a complete refund within 10 working days of any tour or ticket cancellation. He was speaking at a special meeting held between representatives of the council's outbound tours committee, ticketing committee, board directors and Cathay Pacific. ''We are hoping that the dispute may be resolved as soon as possible, so as not to affect travellers in the Lunar New Year period,'' Mr Siu said. ''But as there is no indication when this will happen, we decided something must be done now to assure the travelling public their interests are being protected.'' Travel agent Mr Sedgewick Cheung Siu-cheong, of Travel Expert, said he agreed with the council: ''I think it is totally understandable if people want to cancel their holidays rather than wait around trying to make alternative arrangements,'' he said. Mr Cheung said the dispute had given travel agents an extra workload in the busy holiday period as Cathay Pacific had the largest market share in Hongkong. Much of the extra work involved trying to secure seats for travellers on other airlines, ''but this is very difficult as most flights for the period have been fully booked since last month,'' he said. It was difficult to advise travellers on arrangements as the agents did not know what changes would be made to flights until the eleventh hour. ''We have to explain the situation to our clients, that we do not know whether flights will be delayed, cancelled or transferred [until] a few hours before schedule in many instances,'' Mr Cheung said. The Hongkong Association for Tourists' Rights said it welcomed the council's announcement. But it would like to see the introduction of legislation to protect tourists in events over which they had no control, chairman Mr Chow Yick-hay said. Legislator and chairman of the Hongkong Tourist Association, Mr Martin Barrow, said the association had given Cathay its assurance it would be willing to offer any help it could. Mr Barrow said he could not comment on how the dispute would affect Hongkong's image with foreign tourists, but association spokeswoman Ms Penny Byrne said she was confident any detrimental effects would be limited. The Secretary for Economic Services, Mrs Anson Chan Fang On-sang, said the Government would not intervene in the Cathay Pacific strike unless it seriously damaged the economy and led to a serious breakdown of public order. Mrs Chan yesterday stressed that the current dispute was purely a matter between the airline's management and staff. ''I do not think it is appropriate or indeed necessary for the Government to interfere at this stage, beyond the help that we are already rendering,'' she said. Mrs Chan said she was in close touch with the airline's management. ''I think it is true to say the management has done its best to try to minimise the inconvenience to travellers, and in this respect they have spared no efforts and they certainly have spared no expense.'' Mrs Chan said the airport's apron had been able to accommodate the extra Cathay planes. The Civil Aviation Department will set up special check-in facilities at Kai Tak today for the increase in traffic during the holiday period. A Civil Aviation Department spokesman said the check-in service was expanded routinely at this time of year. ''This has nothing to do with the Cathay situation,'' he said.