Beijing and SAR authorities have agreed to allow more tour firms to run trips from the mainland to Hong Kong. Hong Kong government Information Co-ordinator Stephen Lam Sui-lung disclosed the agreement after Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa met He Guangwei, head of the National Tourism Administration, in Beijing yesterday. The number of travel agencies allowed to operate tours to Hong Kong was recently raised to 67. Both sides believed more should be permitted to run tours, but no timetable had been set for raising the number, Mr Lam said. The National Tourism Administration will review arrangements. In January, 500,000 mainland tourists visited Hong Kong, an increase of 30 per cent compared to the same month last year. It is forecast that the number of mainland tourists, the largest group of visitors to Hong Kong, will grow by 30 per cent this year. Mr Tung also met Shi Guangsheng, Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation, who said that exports from the mainland to Hong Kong had increased by 39 per cent in January compared to the same month last year. Further discussions on developing a closer economic agreement with the mainland are expected to be held later this month. Mr Tung is expected to meet Vice-Premier Qian Qichen this afternoon and attend a reception at the Great Hall of the People to mark the opening of Macau's Beijing office. The Chief Executive is also scheduled to met President Jiang Zemin at Zhongnanhai tomorrow. It is expected Premier Zhu Rongji will formally present Mr Tung with the document appointing him Hong Kong's second Chief Executive at a separate session.