The TIC introduced a series of regulatory measures in late December last year, aimed at fully upgrading the standard of reception service for inbound tours from the mainland. A circular ( C1308 ) is issued to all members today, detailing why the TIC has to do what it did. The following is the circular:
"The TIC issued a total of 10 directives on 24 December last year in order to further improve the service quality of inbound tours from the mainland, crack down on forced shopping and rebuild the confidence of mainland group visitors in Hong Kong, thus enabling the industry to grow healthily and sustainably and continue to contribute to the Hong Kong economy.
"In May last year, a mainland visitor passed away after quarrelling in a registered shop with an unaccredited tourist guide, whose whereabouts are still unknown; and in July, an accredited tourist guide verbally abused her tour group on the tour coach for spending too little on shopping, which was covered by the media in many places. Hong Kong has long been acclaimed globally as a 'shoppers' paradise', and yet the two incidents have not only devastated the reputation of Hong Kong tourism, but also prompted the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) to issue a travel advisory against the service quality of Hong Kong for the first time.
"To salvage the reputation of the industry, the TIC specially set up the Task Force on Business Models of and Regulatory Measures for Mainland China's Inbound Tours, which between July and September met five times and held four consultation sessions to listen to the views of members specialising in receiving mainland tours, tourist guides and registered shops. The Task Force later submitted its recommended regulatory measures to the Board and its report to the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development.
"The Board held an emergency meeting on 19 November to consider the directives concerned, which were based on the recommendations of the Task Force, and resolved to issue all of them with no opposing votes. These directives have won support from the public, visitors, the Government, the media and the CNTA.
"The TIC is determined to eradicate the malpractices related to the operation of mainland tours. Although the TIC's many efforts are praised by all those concerned, some trade practitioners have cited some arguments as reasons for their reluctance to change the undesirable ways of receiving mainland tours, showing no regard for the long-term and healthy development of mainland China's inbound market.
"The first argument repeatedly raised by them is that under the 'one tour, one guide' requirement (i.e. Directive No. 193 ), a guide has to work very long hours during the first two days of a four-day tour from the mainland. As a matter of fact, since Directive No. 193 allows members to assign another guide to meet the tour group at immigration, for a four-day tour, the guide in question only needs to begin working on the afternoon of the first day , has all-day work on the second day , has a rest day on the third day when the tour group is on its own all day, sees the tour group off on the morning of the fourth day , begins working for another tour on the afternoon of the fifth day , has all-day work on the sixth day , and has another rest day on the seventh day when the tour group is on its own all day. Judging from this, the average working hours of guides are not long.
"Their second argument is that the earnings of guides will drop drastically. A small number of guides have made use of undesirable tactics to get shopping commission. For this small group of guides, the implementation of the TIC's new measures will most likely make them earn less; but for those guides who observe the rules, they will have more job opportunities and better security for earnings because travel agents are required to pay them service remunerations under Directive No. 194 and both parties are required to sign service agreements which specify details of remunerations under Directive No. 201 , which has already been covered by the media in detail.
"The third argument of them is why mainland tours should be subject to stringent regulations. In the past few years, various kinds of problem related to mainland tours have erupted from time to time, which seriously hurt the interests of visitors and reputation of the trade. The TIC could not but step up its monitoring of mainland tours without any option. As for inbound tours from other markets and registered shops, since their operations have so far been good and proper, the TIC sees no reason why those measures which have worked well need to be tightened. Other traders such as tour coach companies are outside the TIC's scope of regulation.
"For the sake of Hong Kong's reputation and the overall interests of the industry, I urge members to fully support the regulatory measures. The TIC would like to express its gratitude to all members for their unstinting backing all along and hope that they will not support any short-sighted action."
7 January 2011