Government urged to deal with issue of zero-fee packages Tour guides yesterday threatened to strike unless tourism authorities take action to end the controversy over so called zero-fee tours for mainland visitors. 'November 8 is our deadline. If we hear nothing from the government or the Travel Industry Council, we will go ahead with the original plan and decide whether we will go on strike,' said Wong Ka-hoi, chairman of the Hong Kong Tour Guides General Union committee. 'We do not want to interrupt Hong Kong's tourism. That is not our intention, but if they [the government and the council] hope to address the issue [of zero-fee tours], they should contact us.' The union has about 1,000 members, but it is uncertain how many would participate in a strike. Mr Wong said the tour guides had nothing to lose. The issue came under the spotlight recently when mainland tourists complained about being pressured to make purchases in Hong Kong so their tour guides could earn commission from the shops. Tour guides have accused mainland and Hong Kong agencies of running the super-cheap tours without paying the guides. They said the agencies took the tourists' money, but left the guides to take care of tour expenses. They say this forced them to pressure visitors to shop because the only way they could make a living was from shop commissions. In response to the strike threat, the Tourism Commission said it hoped to organise a meeting for all stakeholders but a date had not been set. 'The government has already had a meeting with the Travel Industry Council, Hong Kong Tourism Board and Consumer Council,' a commission spokeswoman said. 'We will also be in touch with other representatives of the industry, including tour guides and mainland inbound travel agents, shortly.' Mr Wong said Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung had contacted him last Friday hoping to start talks. Both sides say they want to meet but no date has been set. Mr Tung said the council acted only as a middleman between the tour guides and travel agents, so he hoped a compromise could be reached between the agencies and the guides first. He said the tour guides had every right to strike but they needed to inform the government and their employers first so that an alternative arrangement could be made. 'It's not allowed for tour guides to just abandon tours,' he said. 'They have to notify their agents.' Yesterday the Tourism Board said more than 1.83 million visitors arrived in Hong Kong in September, a 2.4 per cent increase on last September. The total number of visitors arriving in Hong Kong from January to September increased by 9.5 per cent to 18.57 million, compared with same period last year. The hotel room occupancy rate increased by 2 percentage points to 86 per cent in the first nine months of this year compared with the same period last year.