CHINA'S austerity drive is unlikely to affect the number of business people travelling into the country, according to the Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents (HATA). ''As there are currently insufficient flight seats to meet the large demand from business travellers, any drop in numbers wanting to travel to China will not affect the total numbers arriving there as the vacated seats will be taken by the long queue,'' said HATA chairman Aloysius Lee, who is also the managing director of Morning Star Travel. Because demand for seats exceeds supply, air tickets are costly. Mr Lee cautioned that China was beginning to price itself out of the market for tour packages. ''The air fare comprises 60 per cent of the price component in a tour package to China. As a result, travel agents don't have much to play around with, meaning they are limited in coming up with a creative and interesting package for the traveller,'' he said. ''There are other destinations like Korea, Bangkok, Singapore and others which are cheaper and the packages can be sold at more attractive prices.'' Mr Lee said that in tourism, a country had to look out for its competitors. ''While you can sell a good destination at a high price, you always have to look out for the competitor. ''As it is getting expensive to travel to China for holidays, demand for China tour packages are falling. ''However, business travel there is still growing,'' said Mr Lee. ''In the past, we had businessmen who travelled to long-haul destinations like America and Europe for their businesses. ''Increasingly, these businessmen are doing more business in China and are hence travelling less to the long-haul destinations and more into China,'' he said. Travel to China had grown at an ''abnormal'' rate, he said. ''It grew so fast over the past few years that the airlines and the airports couldn't cope. ''The airline and airport officials are making efforts to expand and upgrade the facilities and infrastructure but it isn't possible to keep pace with the tremendous boom that took place,'' he said. Among the problems encountered by China's aviation industry were inadequate landing facilities at numerous airports. ''Some of the airports do not have the infrastructure to cope with wide-bodied aircraft,'' he said. And Chinese airlines were under no obligation to promote business, Mr Lee said. ''You cannot blame them. If the demand is high and they can sell the tickets at a high price, why should they lower the prices?'' However, although there were many business travellers to China, Hong Kong travel agents did not gain much benefit from them, he said. ''There are an increasing number of businessmen who are flying into China on charter flights. Charter flight companies don't give travel agents the standard commission, while some of the companies don't give commissions at all,'' he said. Mr Lee said there was also a tremendous number of Chinese travelling to other destinations via Hong Kong. ''Destinations like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore are very popular with Chinese travellers and Hong Kong travel agents are benefitting from these travellers. ''Chinese travellers buy their tickets and tour packages in Hong Kong and tour agents here benefit from them,'' he said.