Hong Kong tourism cracks down on tour guides


Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong yesterday unveiled 10 measures to crack down on tour guide malpractices following a spate of scandals in which mainland tourists were forced to shop.

A council task force has submitted a report on the situation to the government, and the measures should be in place within three months.

The task force was set up in June after footage of Hong Kong guides ridiculing and berating mainland tourists for not spending a lot of money on jewelry and luxury goods was screened on mainland TV and across the internet.

The scandals and outrage sparked concerns about zero-fare tours, in which guides with little or no basic salary rely on commissions from selected shops.

Among measures, the task force calls for a guide demerit system and requiring agencies with visitors to make sure one guide is responsible for each tour group.

It also proposes a minimum wage for tour guides.

Under the demerit system, tour guides would have their licenses suspended if they accumulate 30 points within two years. A license would become void if there is a third tally of 30 demerits.

A tour guide could lose points by multiples of five by forcing visitors to shop or for other misconduct.

The move to have just one guide for each tour is to prevent the “sale” of visitors to a third party, who could be rapacious in the chase for commission.

On pay for guides, the council says they should receive HK$25 per day for each tourist in a party.

Guides would also be required to read out aloud to the group the itinerary at the beginning of every outing.

Other recommendations include random checks of guides’ licenses at tourist destinations, a demerit points system for tour agencies and shops, revamped re- licensing regulations, and a new rule to require shareholders of travel agencies to disclose any relationships with souvenir shops.

Hong Kong travel agencies, meanwhile, would have to sign contracts and clarify their responsibilities with mainland counterparts who are collecting fees from tourists.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Rita Lau Ng Wai-lan said the recommendations are “comprehensive and pragmatic” in the effort to eliminate malpractices.

But Hong Kong Tour Guides General Union chairman Wong Ka-ngai said authorities need to be flexible on the one- guide, one-tour policy as they may be forced to work long hours.

Tourism sector legislator Paul Tse Wai-chun said the recommendations are in the right direction.

He also called for clear guidelines on behavior that could draw penalty points.