28th March 2023 – (Hong Kong) The Hong Kong tourism industry is facing issues with Mainland Chinese tour groups after the resumption of cross-border travel. Recently, there have been reports of Mainland Chinese tour groups overcrowding areas like To Kwa Wan and causing inconvenience to local residents. In addition, there have been reports of tour group members eating instant noodles while standing near public toilet at Repulse Bay.
Annie Fonda, the Executive Director of the Travel Industry Authority (TIA) of Hong Kong, spoke on a radio program today (28th March) and admitted that the current situation is not ideal. The council has dispatched personnel to inspect various tourist spots since the border reopening. The industry is also willing to divert Mainland Chinese tour groups to areas outside Kowloon City to dine, but due to cost issues, it will take some time to contact eateries that offer affordable group meals.
Regarding the situation of tour group members eating two-dish rice and cup noodles while standing, Fonda said that TIA has contacted the agent involved in the situation. TIA learned that an elderly tour group member was hungry while waiting for a meal and requested the tour guide to find food nearby. The agent then arranged for the purchase of two-dish rice. Although no complaints have been received from tourists and the agent has not violated any regulations, the agent understands that there are many voices in society and has promised not to do it again. As for the incident of eating instant noodles while standing near public toilet, Fonda said that it has not been confirmed whether it was related to Mainland Chinese tour groups.
Fonda admitted that the current situation is not ideal and that TIA is willing to make improvements. TIA has held several meetings with the industry and many persons are involved in solving the issues. For example, TIA has coordinated to stagger meal times for different tour groups from around 10am to 1pm. TIA has also reminded restaurants that offer group meals to improve their reservation systems. Fonda hopes that all stakeholders can give them time and space to make improvements.
Fonda also mentioned that the industry is planning to divert Mainland Chinese tour groups to quieter areas. However, she pointed out that “the cost of each tour group is different, and the more expensive the tour, the more choices there are. For cheaper tour groups that cost between HK$40 and HK$60 per meal, there are not many restaurants willing to provide group meals.” Therefore, the industry is currently contacting eateries that are willing to offer affordable group meals. She also acknowledged that the current problem is coordination, and TIA is participating in the overall coordination among the industry. Travel agents are also cooperative, and they empathise with the situation.
Meanwhile, Leung Chun–wah, chairman of the Association for Hong Kong Catering Services Management, pointed out that Hong Kong used to receive over 12 million tourists in its peak month, but now only receives around 2 million tourists. He stated that the issue of group dining is not serious, but in the Kowloon City area, where there used to be six or seven restaurants serving group meals, now only two remain, and “gathering is not ideal.”
However, he also expressed that even if the tourism industry intends to arrange for groups to dine in other areas, many low-cost group meal prices are around HK$30 per person, which is a price issue. It is believed that there are not many restaurants that can accommodate such low prices.