Guangzhou travel agencies told to avoid sending tour groups to Hong Kong at weekends via new bridge after influx of visitors at border town sparks anger
- ‘Urgent notice’, issued by Tourism Administration of Guangzhou Municipality and effective immediately, also pledges crackdown on unauthorised agents
- Move came after residents of Tung Chung complained of being inundated by mainland visitors
Guangzhou’s tourism authority on Thursday sent an “urgent notice” to travel agencies in the mainland Chinese city instructing them to avoid sending tour groups to Hong Kong via the new cross-border bridge during weekends.
The notice, issued by the Tourism Administration of Guangzhou Municipality and effective immediately, also pledged a crackdown on unauthorised agents.
The move came after residents of Tung Chung on Lantau Island complained of being inundated by mainland visitors after the opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge last month.
The influx of visitors saw long queues at bus stops and shops largely emptied of goods, triggering protests by localist activists and inflaming anti-mainland sentiment over the disruption to residents’ daily life.
Some tour guides were also accused of flouting employment laws that prevent mainlanders from working in the city.
In Thursday’s notice, the Guangzhou tourism authority informed travel agencies that “from now on” they would have to “reasonably arrange” one-day tours via the bridge, and should encourage visitors to do more “two-day or longer” tours.
“If possible, the tours should not be departing over weekends so as to avoid the peak periods of the bridge,” the notice read.
In Hong Kong, a spokesman for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau on Thursday thanked the mainland side for “offering assistance”.
The spokesman said Hong Kong’s Tourism Commission raised the issue with the Guangdong provincial department of culture and tourism early this month.
“The department took it very seriously and has since instructed local tourism authorities to step up regulatory work,” he added.
Hong Kong lawmaker Yiu Si-wing, who represents the tourism sector, welcomed the move as the first concrete step taken by authorities from across the border to address the city’s concerns about overcrowding.
“It is a good move,” he said. “If Guangzhou city is doing something, I hope the other cities like Zhuhai would soon follow. It can definitely help ease the congestion problem in the port areas [of the bridge] and Tung Chung.”
Yiu said he believed the mainland side was sincere about resolving the issue with Hong Kong and hoped the local government would stay on top of the problem through closer contact with authorities across the border.
But localist activist Roy Tam Hoi-pong, of the NeoDemocrats, was unimpressed.
“I think it is not addressing the crux of the issue,” he said. “The problem we have in Tung Chung is that there are too many mainland tourists, not only over weekends.
“We have to stop the influx at its source, otherwise, whatever measures are taken cannot bring peace back to Tung Chung.”
There was some confusion in Guangzhou on Thursday regarding the notice.
A spokesman for ecwalk, a travel agency in the city, said he was unaware of any such instruction and his company would still be organising one-day tours to Hong Kong via the bridge this weekend, mainly taking visitors to Tung Chung.
Hong Kong officials have said they are aware of the influx of visitors and have raised it with their mainland counterparts.
Commerce minister Edward Yau Tang-wah said this week that the number of registered tour groups visiting Hong Kong via the bridge had jumped from about 70 in the first week, to more than 700 in the past week.
Additional reporting by Su Xinqi.