18th September 2013
FTU Should Not Confuse the Public About The Problem of Excess Chinese Tourists
Lam Shuk-fan, Secretary of Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) Tourism Committee*, wrote an article in Ming Pao Daily on 13th September criticises an article I wrote on 10th September saying that it is “hostile” and it “confuses right and wrong, and provoke the conflicts between Hong Kongers and Chinese and frames Hong Kong’s tourism industry”. I would like to take this opportunity to response.
Lam’s article emphasises that tourism is “one of the four key economic foundations of Hong Kong”, and the industry employs over 600,000 people. This number is likely to have included the retail sector’s figure. Chinese tourists have flooded Hong Kong and is almost a disaster, but the article deliberately mention nothing about the fact that the tourism industry contributes approximately 4% to Hong Kong’s GDP, and the social problems and negative impacts on the source of other tourists caused by Chinese tourists.
Lam also thinks that the unprofessional individuals only make up a minority of the tourism industry, and that stopping the individual travel scheme is unfair. I have been in the tourism industry for many years, and have worked in ticketing, itinerary planning, tour guide, tour bus driver. Hence, my knowledge of the industry is probably much more than what Lam expected. The tour buses on Stubbs Road Lookout cause traffic jam almost everyday, this cannot be caused by a minority of practitioners in the tourism industry. Poor quality services affect traffics, for example Beach Road in Repulse Bay. “$0 Tours” will bring tourists to the beach for a 10 minutes walk, as oppose to a decent tour group which takes tourists to Tin Hau Temple and spend around 40 minutes there. This simply highlights the ridiculousness of “$0 Tours”.
Her article also mentioned that “(Hong Kong should) establish the uniquely Hong Kong souvenir and create ‘souvenir street’ and ‘night market’… and develop underground shopping malls”. Based on her comments, it is obvious that Ms Lam’s view about tourism is purely on shopping, which is the same as the “$0 Tours” operators. In tourism management, there is no such thing called “create tourist spots” but manage and promote about the sector based on the existing community planning and the industry’s needs. Lam also talked about “evaluate the supply and demand problem of hotel facilities”, which once again shows that she has no professional knowledge on tourism. One must evaluate the city’s capability to receive tourists before determining the number of hotel rooms. Once the number is calculated, the city can then plan about the number of hotels to be built. Lam said she have talked about “anti $0 Tours and unprofessional behaviours in the industry, and encourage people in the industry to upskill themselves”. However, has FTU put anything into action? Given that I haven’t attended any of the FTU’s courses, I am not in the best position to comment. But, can Lam guarantee that $0 Tours do not exist anymore nowadays?
At the end of her article, she said “it is the major trend that China allows its people to travel overseas, and whether they choose to come to Hong Kong is their personal choice”. In a free economy, Hong Kong also has the right to choose whether to receive Chinese tourists. If the source of tourists is broad and sufficient, industry practitioners will have no need to worry about making ends meet. In my previous article, I also raised questions about the professionalism and attitudes of the “slaughters” (those who exploit tourists) in the industry. Lam did not only failed to address in her article, but only criticised that blaming all the problems on the Chinese tourists and individual travel scheme will affect the ability of the industry to make money. It is obvious that the FTU focuses only on money making ability rather than on the quality and problems of the industry. Lam also thinks that Hong Kong people should “tolerate” and be open-minded about Chinese tourists’ bad behaviours.
I would also like to highlight that what I urges is Hong Kong’s tourism sector to welcome tourists from around the world and operate in a professional and decent manner. United Nation’s Charter for Sustainable Tourism says “all options for tourism development must serve effectively to improve the quality of life of all people and must influence the socio-cultural enrichment of each destination”. Since the flood of Chinese tourists does not improve the life of Hong Kong people but causes torments, reducing Chinese tourists travelling via the individual travel scheme is a reasonable reuest.
Jacky Lim Hung-tat (public affairs commentator)