Small and medium-sized companies in the tourist industry are being urged to compete with major hotel groups and airlines for this year's awards. The Hong Kong Tourist Association (HKTA) is overseeing the Tourism Services category and Grace Lee, the finance and administration director, said any company serving tourists was welcome to take part. 'That includes restaurants, shops, travel agents and tour operators as well as hotels, airlines and tourist attractions,' she said. When the awards were launched last year, the top award went to Shanghai Tang which showed that smaller operators could compete successfully. Twenty-three companies took part in the contest last year but the HKTA is hoping for a bigger entry this time. One incentive has been to make entering the scheme easier. 'Entry forms are a lot more user-friendly,' Mrs Lee said. 'That makes it easier for smaller companies with limited resources.' Among other advantages of taking part, winners are allowed to publicise their prizes on company letterheads for three years. 'It is recognition - rather like ISO 2000 certification,' Mrs Lee said. 'We are trying to find out what share of a firm's business comes from tourists, how companies establish the value of this core business, and how they go about giving customers the best service.' In addition, the association will be on the look-out for companies demonstrating a commitment to helping develop the tourist industry. This will include involvement in the HKTA's latest 'Be A Good Host' campaign which aims to promote Hong Kong as hospitable and courteous. As part of the courtesy drive, the HKTA is running a 'Discover Hong Kong' competition. It is inviting the public and companies to design tour itineraries for several categories, including families, the elderly, honeymoon couples and environmentalists. 'The service awards are very timely for the tourism industry,' Mrs Lee said. 'There have been awards for industry for so long but service is important, too.' Mrs Lee said competition last year had been intense.