Hong Kong to improve itineraries of mainland tour groups

Tourists from the Chinese mainland dance along the harbour front in Hong Kong SAR on March 13, 2023. - AFP

HONG KONG (China Daily/Asia News Network): Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said Hong Kong authorities will address the recent problems for Hong Kong residents created by the itineraries of some Chinese mainland tour groups.

Yeung said Hong Kong has a small area and a large number of people, and if tourists are concentrated in only a few spots, this will cause problems for residents.

“The authorities hope that tourists will have a good experience when they come to Hong Kong, and also their visits will not affect local residents too much. If there is any need to make any changes, the authorities are willing to do so as long as it solves the problems,” Yeung told the Legislative Council Panel on Economic Development on Monday.

At the meeting, legislators Starry Lee Wai-king and Kitson Yang Wing-kit voiced concerns about the problems caused by some itineraries of mainland tourist groups in the Hung Hom and To Kwa Wan neighbourhoods.

Inbound Tour Operators Association Founding President Ricky Tse Kam-ting said that Hong Kong needs all types of tourists as budget tours have been playing a key role in reviving the tourism sector, and low-cost tours do not necessarily mean “forced shopping”.

“We believe these things are now vastly different from the way they were in the past because Hong Kong now has the Travel Industry Authority,” Tse said on a Monday radio program.

“The regulator actually closely monitors such situations, whether there is any forced shopping, or agencies having any itinerary that does not match its reception capacity,” Tse added.

Local media on Friday reported that such tours have filled parts of Kowloon, with mainland tourists forced to eat cheap takeaway food orders on the streets.

The article quoted lawmakers as saying that they had received complaints about forced shopping, a malpractice that sees travelers pressured to buy merchandise at shops that pay tour operators commissions.

Last weekend, the TIA sent personnel to the Kowloon City District to inspect many locations where mainland inbound tour groups were active.

The TIA met with industry leaders who receive mainland inbound tour groups to discuss plans to strengthen the management of inbound tour groups.

The TIA said the tourism trade is aware that it must abide by the law and not engage in forced shopping, adding that tour operators have pledged to do what they can to minimise disruption to residents of certain neighbourhoods.

The TIA said there are five registered stores serving mainland tour groups in the Kowloon City District, and it is closely monitoring their operations.

The authority said it is considering canceling new applications for such stores in accordance with the latest traffic flow in the same area.

The new regulatory system for the tourism industry has been implemented since Sept 1. Forced shopping is a criminal offence under the Travel Industry Ordinance.

As of March 23, the TIA had conducted more than 650 on-site inspections, covering cross-border tourist gathering points, tourist attractions and registered shops that inbound tour groups will visit.

The TIA has not revealed any violations of regulations, and said that no reports or complaints about coercive shopping have been received so far.

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Hong Kong , tourists , China , itineraries


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