Lost business during delayed launch prompts angry call for rent refunds Ngong Ping Village tenants yesterday were breathing a sigh of relief ahead of today's opening of the Ngong Ping 360 cable car. But 10 out of 24 shops are still closed and some tenants have called for a refund of three months' rent. 'About bloody time,' said Peter Cheung Fat-hoi, 46, owner of Excellent Lion photographic supplies, a franchise of Kodak Express. 'We were ready three months ago.' Mr Cheung relocated his shop to Ngong Ping Village from The Peak in May, but said he had seen 'very little business' in the intervening period, during which he had had to pay his sales staff. The renovations and stocking up had been completed in June, and he had nothing to do but wait since then. His sentiments were echoed by James To Ka-ki, 40, owner of Oriental Massage Centre, who wanted a refund of three months' rent, and management and promotional fees. 'The management told me to pay first and arrange the refund later, but I haven't heard anything since. They really ought to refund us as they haven't kept their side of the bargain,' he said. Rubbing his hands in anticipation of the start of business, Mr To hoped to capitalise on the weary legs and feet of tourists. 'I am offering 15-minute massages to soothe their pain after climbing the 268 steps to the Big Buddha,' he said. Villager Man Yuen-tong, 53, renovated his house just outside Ngong Ping village to match the Ngong Ping decor, and split his convenience store into a canteen and souvenir shop. 'There was no way I could compete with 7-Eleven, so I decided to make a few changes. I don't want to copy the shops in the village so I still haven't decided what to stock in my souvenir shop. But I can afford to wait and see as I am not paying rent,' he said. Things were more hectic for the executive manager of La Dolce Gelato Italiano, Alvin Tse Yu-chung, 24, who was frantically trying to complete the renovation of his ice cream parlour. 'We would have been ready for the original opening but management laid this huge gas pipe in the kitchen that we didn't want, and right in the spot where I intended to put one of the refrigerators,' Mr Tse said. 'After the cable-car opening was delayed, we decided to suspend work. I guess we were lucky. Our neighbours have amassed big losses having to pay their staff while receiving only the odd customer.' Mr Tse also criticised the operators for the short notice given to shop owners of the opening. Joe Cheng, maitre d' at the Hong Kong Delights Chinese restaurant that has been open for three barren months, said: 'The important thing is to look forward, not backwards.' The tourism industry predicts the cable car attraction could bring 10 per cent more tour groups to the city. Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung said the new attraction would bring more mainland visitors to the city next month. 'We have high expectations. There may not be too many tourists on the first day of its official opening but we believe there will be more after one or two weeks of promotion,' Mr Tung said. 'I think the number of tour groups will jump by 10 per cent and the number of individual travellers from the mainland will increase in the 'golden week' [the holiday week following National Day on October 1].' But he believed the Tourism Board, which had estimated that the total number of visitors would reach 27 million this year, was being too optimistic. 'I think we will have about 25 million this year, compared with 23 million last year, which is already an increase of 7 to 8 per cent,' he said.