Tourism Commissioner Mike Rowse sparked anger among green activists yesterday by saying air pollution had only a 'negligible' impact on tourism. Mr Rowse made the comment in a speech to mark the Joint Tourism Council's campaign to encourage taxi and minibus drivers to turn off their engines while waiting for passengers. 'What we are doing is a gesture to draw attention to an important subject,' said Mr Rowse. 'Pollution has had a negligible effect on tourism so far but this is something to worry about in the long term.' Assistant director of Friends of the Earth Edwin Lau Che-feng criticised Mr Rowse's remarks, saying: 'This is a sign that they are not taking the issue of air pollution seriously. Tourists have a lot of choice these days and we get a lot of complaints from people who visit Hong Kong.' In April, the Asian Development Bank warned that further pollution in Hong Kong would damage the city's economic recovery. But some business leaders say green groups are exaggerating its impact on business and tourism. Private Sector Committee on the Environment director Edwin Lau Chi-kit said the number of tourists was up despite pollution and that its effect was less than green groups had suggested. Angela Spaxman, who heads the Clean the Air group, doubted the tourism industry's figures and said there was anecdotal evidence to support the fact that tourists were put off by hazardous air.