Drop in number of convention and exhibition visitors Arrivals for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions, also known as MICE visitors, dropped 10 per cent last year to 1.17 million, the Tourism Board said yesterday. 'This is mainly due to a drop ... in the second and third quarter,' a board spokeswoman said. It attributed the decline to visitors staying away because of difficulty in obtaining visas for the mainland ahead of the Olympics, and mainland travellers staying at home because of the snow storm in January, the Sichuan earthquake in May and the Games. Despite the economic downturn, Japanese firm Diana has brought a delegation of about 1,100 staff to Hong Kong for a five-day tour this week. Accountants urge relief in budget The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants has recommended the government include a series of relief measures in the budget amid the global economic crisis. Suggestions include a one-off salaries tax reduction of 75 per cent, capped at HK$25,000; rates waivers, capped at HK$5,000 per quarter, and an electricity bill subsidy. It also said the government should increase the dependent parent allowance by HK$10,000 to HK$40,000. March for free speech A march will be staged on Sunday to urge the government to pay greater respect to freedom of expression and to open up the airwaves to more small broadcasters. The rally is being organised by pan-democrats and Citizen's Radio, the unlicensed station that has continued broadcasting despite court orders. The march will leave Victoria Park at 3pm and end at the Central Government Offices. Support sought for student loans The Legislative Council passed a motion urging the government to offer financial support for young people caught in the recession. Lawmakers proposed that interest on student loan schemes be calculated after students have completed their studies and that it should be waived for one year. Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said student loan schemes were operating smoothly.