THE lives of tourists are being put at risk by guesthouse operators who refuse to abide by tough new safety regulations, it was claimed yesterday. Officers from the City and New Territories Administration (CNTA) found that six of the 61 premises they inspected during a two-day operation failed to comply with the measures, while a further 27 got round the standards by being reclassified as domestic flats. It was impossible to check all the territory's 540 known guesthouses during the operation, but officers fear the same statistics could apply to all the hostels. The deaths of two tourists during guesthouse fires in 1991 prompted the Government to introduce the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance, which meant that hostels not providing fire alarms, fire doors, extinguishers and better ventilation would not be licensed. The ordinance became operational from September 1, but one senior official said yesterday that he feared up to 40 per cent of hostels would reclassify themselves to escape regulation. Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs (Building Management) Francis Lo Chi-wai said they would inspect all the territory's guesthouses in the coming weeks. So far only 164 had licences, and while most had complied with the ordinance by making safety improvements in the past year, he believed nearly half of the owners would avoid making the improvements by changing their premises' status. ''We realise that there will be a short-term impact on the guesthouse industry because within a short period if a significant number cease to exist there must be some impact,'' he said. ''But in the medium to long-term the market mechanism will play its part. There will be responsible guesthouse operators to meet the demand.'' Christine Chow Kwan-tai, the CNTA's regional secretary for Hong Kong and Kowloon, warned that tourists would face a tremendous risk staying in unlicensed premises. ''There are some very bad guesthouses that pose enormous dangers. We would always advise tourists to stay only in places which have at least the minimum safety standards,'' she said. CNTA officers yesterday issued warning notices to owners of unlicensed Tsim Sha Tsui guesthouses - four in Mirador Mansions, one in Chungking Mansions and one in Lynton Building. Unless they carry out remedial measures within six weeks, they will be prosecuted. The maximum penalty is two years' imprisonment and a $200,000 fine. Meanwhile, Peter Ng Weung-yuen hoped to have his Peking Guest House in Chungking Mansions open in two weeks following a $130,000 facelift. He said he was considering a 20 per cent price rise for rooms to recover the money and the estimated $35,000 loss of revenue. Philip Cheung Ngai-man, owner of Ocean Guesthouse in Chungking, has already received his licence after spending $150,000 on fire alarms, widening corridors and creating better access from windows. He too is looking at a 10 to 20 per cent rise on rooms which cost about $280 a night. Tourist Matthew Draycott from the United Kingdom said: ''I don't mind paying more if it means the place is safer and nicer to stay in.'' A long-term resident of Chungking Mansions said: ''Having the new rules has made owners here do some fast repairs but after the heat dies down I'd be surprised if maintenance is kept up.''