As part of an industry which is the backbone of the economy, some tourist agencies have not been giving a very good account of themselves lately. The latest letdown left 200 mainland tourists stranded in the SAR in the small hours of the Lunar New Year holidays, without a guide to meet them, nor any idea of where they were to stay. This was the latest in a series of incidents which damage Hong Kong's reputation as a major tourist destination. Although most problems were resolved in a satisfactory manner, they appear to have been caused by a lack of communication between agents across the border and firms here. So, as the Economic Services Council has recognised, it must be a matter of urgency to draw up rules of procedure which prevent a repeat of similar misunderstandings. Travel agencies which arrange foreign trips for local clients, are usually members of the Travel Industry Council which offers travellers a measure of immunity against such incidents as a breakdown in arrangements or the collapse of the company which arranged the trip. But the only requirement for firms handling mainland tour groups is that they are relied on to check that all visitors are genuine and not likely to become illegal immigrants. While that may be a proper concern, it is just as important for Hong Kong's image to ensure that the companies will look after the visitors properly once they arrive. At the end of last year, several mainland tourists complained that tour guides were luring them into warehouses which charged up to 30 times the market price for goods, and paid a massive rake-off to the operators in return. If there are any more examples of this kind of 'hospitality', there will be little point in the Government pressing the mainland authorities to increase the current 1,500 daily quota. Word will have spread across the border and holidaymakers will opt for destinations where they can rely on a real welcome from tour guides who take pride in their homeland and make every effort to see that visitors enjoy themselves and get value for their money. It is no excuse to say that these are rare events, and that the mass of tourists have a trouble free stay. That is the way it should be in a place which has so much experience in the tourism industry. Mainlanders are providing about 30 per cent of the current income from tourism. Last year they made up 2.6 million of the 9.6 million visitors and spent an average of $5,487 per head. If those numbers are to increase, the SAR will have to see that it offers a fairer and more reliable service than it is giving at the moment.