The number of Japanese tourists visiting Hong Kong has continued to drop, falling 61 per cent last month compared to October last year. That was a bigger decline than in September when numbers fell 56 per cent. Arrivals have been hit by reports of travel agents charging Japanese visitors inflated prices for hotel rooms, as well as concern about visitor safety after the handover. However, the Hong Kong Tourist Association said other figures indicated the decline in visitors was slowing. The number of tourists arriving last month was 851,849 - a drop of 21 per cent on October 1996, it said. Tourist numbers fell 22 per cent in September, 24 per cent in August and 35 per cent in July over the same periods last year. As the figures were announced, the Travel Industry Council's new chairman Simon Hau Suk-kei said it was exploring how the industry could be better regulated. 'We are thinking of having one licence for both inbound and outbound agents,' said Mr Hau, who replaced Harold Wu Tan on Friday. Outbound agents have been licensed since 1986, but there are no controls over agents offering tours into Hong Kong. The Economic Services Bureau is also investigating the need for inbound operators to be licensed. The council's investigation into one of its members, Ever Sun Travel Ltd, found in a South China Morning Post probe to be charging Japanese and South Korean visitors inflated prices, has revealed the agent was using a middleman to secure hotel rooms. Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung said the firm had to buy the rooms from another travel agent because it had no direct contact with the two markets. Mr Tung promised to continue the investigation. 'I will go after this as we do not want agents to unjustifiably be made the scapegoats,' he said. Cathay Pacific reported a lacklustre take-up of its Super Offer discount scheme in Japan. The two-for-one fare deal, which has sold 65,000 tickets worldwide, including 25,000 in Taiwan alone, has been bought by only 2,000 Japanese.