Travel industry urges govt to ease gathering bans to boost local tours

Saturday, September 26, 2020

The president of the Hong Kong Travel Agent Owners Association has urged the government to ease a restriction on public gatherings so that the travel industry can make profit by launching local tours, instead of relying on government's handouts.

Freddy Yip Hing-ning said the relaxation of public gatherings from four to 30 would allow the sector to put on profitable trips while coach drivers could get back to work, thus reducing their dependence of businesses on official relief measures.

The industry was one of the hard-hit sectors amid the Covid-19 pandemic, under which officials shut the city's borders to tourists for much of the year and limited local activities.

Speaking on a radio program, Yip said he had discussed the idea with Health Secretary Sophia Chan Siu-chee and had received a positive response.

"The Hong Kong government realize that they cannot afford to keep on giving out the money to all the sectors," Yip said. "Every sector is complaining that it's not enough for them so the travel agents are getting less money compared to other sectors.

"For almost 10 months, they have had almost no income and they have to keep on paying the expenses of their offices."

He noted that tour coaches were now relatively safer compared to commuting on public transport.

"Compared to the public bus where so many people stand up with the mask, face to face, it will not be so risky to allow them to sit in a tourist coach," said Yip, adding that coach tours would only be profitable if they had more than 20 to 25 people aboard.

Meanwhile, Ho Lai-chuen of the Hong kong Live Performance and Production Industry Association, also called on the government to provide more assistance to performers.

Ho said the government could provide performance venues for free so that performers could put on shows for online audiences, and ease curbs that mandates venues to halve their usual capacity.

He said actions taken to help the industry so far showed officials were “out of touch”.