SCMP Saturday, November 10, 2001

SAR 'must stop fleecing mainland tourists'


Mainland tourism officials have urged Hong Kong to step up regulations on inbound tours to avoid holidaymakers being cheated.
Ronnie Yuen Ka-chai, chairman of the Travel Industry Council, met tourism officials from several provinces during the China International Tourism Mart, which closed in Kunming, Yunnan province, yesterday. Mr Yuen said mainland tourism authorities were concerned about so called "zero-fare" tour packages jointly offered by some mainland and SAR agencies.
The tours bring visitors to Hong Kong for free but make profit from commission allegedly earned by luring them into buying over-priced goods.
Mr Yuen said the mainland authorities feared there would be more abuses after China liberalised the SAR tourism market by increasing the authorised tour agencies from four to 67.
"There will be intense competition after liberalisation. The tour price has gone down almost 30 per cent in some cases. This may fuel more abuses," he said.
Mr Yuen said the China National Tourism Administration had pledged to cancel the licences of mainland agencies that mistreated tourists but more had to be done by the SAR. "It is time to regulate now. Otherwise, mainland tourists will be deterred from the SAR and our reputation will be damaged," he said.
A spokeswoman for the Economic Services Bureau said it expected the amendment to the Travel Agents Ordinance regulating inbound tour agencies to be scrutinised by legislators before the end of the year.