The Hong Kong Tourism Board has been accused of being exploitative after it was revealed that university interns were offered $2,500 a month to distribute flyers to tourists this summer. The accusation came after a South China Morning Post survey found the board's allowance for interns was substantially lower than that offered by government departments, non-governmental organisations and private firms. Speaking to the Post, a student who was employed by the board as a summer intern said he was offered $2,500 a month to promote the 'Mega Hong Kong Sale'. The $52 million promotional campaign running from mid-June to the end of next month, has been criticised by retailers for not being properly advertised. After attending a briefing session, the student and 88 interns recruited from local universities were sent to distribute promotional material in tourist spots. The job, advertised at the universities, also involved answering tourists' questions, helping out at information counters and conducting lucky draws. The student was required to work a nine-hour day, six days a week. 'They told me I would learn a lot by promoting Hong Kong to tourists. It turned out we were only distributing flyers,' he said. But another student intern, who helped to man the lucky draw counter in Admiralty MTR station, said: 'Although we normally distribute leaflets and conduct lucky draws, it varies among individuals as to whether they learn something useful.' It has emerged that 12 students have since left the internship. Legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, of the Confederation of Trade Unions, said the allowance arrangement worked out at $100 for an eight-hour day, which he called '100 per cent exploitation'. 'Internship normally carries the meaning of learning something to build a career. What did they learn from distributing flyers?' Ronnie Yuen Ka-chai, chairman of the Joint Council of the Travel Industry, accused the board of employing cheap labour, saying interns in the tourism sector were usually paid $5,000 per month. 'It doesn't matter what work they do, how much they would learn and how you term the payment, $2,500 is still very little,' he said. But Howard Young, the tourism sector's representative in Legco, said: 'I think it's OK as long as the students are willing to take the jobs.' Donna Mongan, spokeswoman for the board, denied it was exploiting students. She said the pay was not a salary but an 'allowance', and the interns knew what amount they would be paid before signing up. She denied that students learned little by distributing leaflets. 'They still have the chance to get frontline experience,' she said. In the Post's survey, university student interns employed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department were found to be the highest paid at $8,125. Summer executive assistants working for Hong Kong University earned $8,000, while summer interns employed by Cathay Pacific's various departments made $7,400. Interns with the Information Services Department were paid $6,800 and secondary-school helpers at the Caritas Community Centre in Caine Road got $4,500.