Reward for agencies to bring in tourists

Top News | Charlotte Luo 24 Oct 2019

Travel agencies will get cash incentives from the government for each tourist received as part of relief measures for the industry announced by Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah.

The cash incentives, totaling HK$100 million, aim to encourage 1,700 tour firms to bring in more business.

Agencies receive HK$120 for each inbound tourist who stays overnight and HK$100 for each outbound traveler, with a maximum of 500 tourists per travel company.

Yau said each agency is eligible to receive up to HK$60,000 from the government between next month and the end of March next year.

The agencies can decide how to use the cash, he added.

Yau said the tourism industry was the first to be hit when the economy sloped downward, hoping the new plan could support the enterprises and indirectly benefit relevant industries such as hotel, aviation and retail.

He clarified that the cash incentives are not a subsidy but a short-term reward.

Yau estimated that the plan could result in an additional 850,000 tourists.

"Our reputation as a safe city is at stake because of all the things happening in Hong Kong," Yau said. "So far, 40 countries have given travel advice to their citizens visiting Hong Kong, with a few of them issuing alerts."

He said the most important thing at this point is to restore Hong Kong's reputation as safe city. The cash incentives will be distributed through the Tourism Board and the Travel Industry Council, which expressed gratitude for the scheme.

"The travel industry has been gravely affected by the protests, which have lasted for over four months. I believe the morale of traders will be boosted this time as the government is going to dish out cash to directly help agencies," council chairman Jason Wong Chun-tat said.

Tong Kim-sang, general secretary of the Hong Kong Travel Industry (Outbound) Tour Escort and Tour Guide Union, said agencies will not necessarily provide subsidy to employees or give discounts to tourists.

The new measure seems to only benefit the bosses of travel agencies instead of tourists or workers, he said.

Tong said tour guides need to pay travel insurance with their own money while they take a group abroad. So, he added, if the government wants to help tour guides it should consider providing subsidies to them.

The root of the problem for tourism industry is the economy is down, Tong said, and the government needs to solve the economic issues and people's livelihood problems.

In August, tourist arrivals fell 39 per cent to 3.59 million while the hotel room occupancy rate dropped 28 percent year on year

Preliminary data showed the number of tourists dropped 50 percent year on year last month.

A separate HK$2 billion worth of relief measures were rolled out to support the transport and retail sectors on Tuesday.

charlotte.luo@singtaonewscorp.com

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