The quota for mainland visitors to the SAR should be scrapped, the Tourism Board chairman said yesterday, adding that the problem of over-stayers was no longer a major issue. Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee welcomed the consensus reached between the SAR and central Government this week to allow more mainlanders to visit Hong Kong for business and holidays. But she said the existing quota system should be removed gradually, as the time and cost of processing visa applications was not helping the tourism industry. 'It [the quota system] is actually inhibiting them from coming. Now we are talking about the relaxation of the quota and hopefully there will be no quota at the end,' she said. The daily quota for mainland tourists joining Hong Kong tours is 1,500. It will be raised to 2,000 in September. Mrs Chow said the quota system had been used as a security measure to prevent mainland visitors remaining illegally, but this was no longer a major problem as the typical visitor was a businessman or well-off holidaymaker. 'In the past, we thought that many mainlanders wanted to stay behind. But it's different now, we want them to come for business, which would strengthen our role as a financial centre . . . They have family and businesses on the mainland and they are living well there, they won't overstay here.' According to Immigration Department figures, the number of over-stayers has dropped in the past two years. Last year 1.15 per cent of 458,733 mainland visitors with permits overstayed, compared to 1.74 per cent of 336,440 visitors in 1999. Democrat lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan said the Government should carry out a study on the impact of abolishing the quota system. 'It would be great for the economy if more mainland visitors were to come. But we also have to know whether it would bring other problems, such as overstaying,' he said. Tourism Council chairman Ronnie Yuen Ka-chai questioned whether scrapping the quota system would bring more mainland visitors to the SAR. 'Increasing the quota or even scrapping it would be useless without tourist attractions for mainland visitors. I can't see that there are things to attract people to come until 2005, when the Disneyland theme park is opened,' he said. Mr Yuen said Hong Kong was no longer a shopping paradise as the currency exchange rate was not favourable to many visitors.