Hong Kong’s new one-guide, one-tour policy will drastically reduce income, say over 1,000 tour guides, who staged a protest against it.
The scheme, to take effect on February 1, is an attempt by the Travel Industry Council to improve the services of guides and reduce the chances of visitors being forced to go shopping.
Protesters led by three tourism industry groups marched from Chater Garden to the central government liaison office yesterday.
A protester, surnamed Tam, said the new system would prevent her taking on work during periods when her primary tourists were on their own time. “I predict I will lose HK$10,000 each month because of this policy,” she said.
The chairman of the Hong Kong Tour Guides General Union, Wong Ka-ngai, said the directives would not be positive for Hong Kong tourism.
“If the directive takes effect, guides have to take care of tourists during a whole four days,” he said, referring to the usual tour schedule. “So our guides can’t take more tours… while their tourists are on independent activities.”
The Travel Industry Council last month released 10 directives to regulate the business. The key rule is one guide will be assigned to the same inbound tour group from the mainland throughout a group’s stay in Hong Kong except at immigration control points and when visitors are on free time.
A protester named Yeung expressed concern over the long working hours he stands to face under the new system. “In the first two days of the tour, I need to work for more than 30 hours to take my tourists to attractions, have lunch and go back to the hotel,” he said.
“It would be impossible for me to work for two more days during the same tour. I need to have rest.”
Yeung went on to describe a demerit system being introduced in the 10-point plan as “ruthless.”
“I have no idea why the demerit system has to be implemented,” he said. “Many tour guides may lose their jobs because of it.”
Tour guides who have violated TIC rules will be suspended or their licenses revoked if the total number of demerit points reaches 30.
“We don’t how the TIC determines the seriousness of the violations,” said Simon Hau Su- ki, chairman of the Hong Kong Inbound Tour Operators Association. “The TIC hasn’t provided us with details of this punishment system.”
Tourism-sector legislator Paul Tse Wai-chun, who joined the protest, said: “Many friends of our tourism industry came to this protest.
“It demonstrates that we can’t tolerate the directives and the Travel Industry Council’s administration any longer.”
But council chairman Michael Wu Siu-ieng said the 10 directives are already set and insisted that the TIC has consulted the industry.