China’s Department of Public Safety should ask the Shenzhen government to control the issuance of multiple entry permits to Hong Kong in order to reduce the number of mainland tourists visiting the territory, according to a Hong Kong delegate to the National People’s Congress.
Lo Sui-on, honorary chairman of China Travel Service (Hong Kong) Ltd., said there is no need to completely suspend the solo visit scheme, but mainland authorities should slow the pace of approvals for individual travelers, especially during peak seasons such as the Lunar New Year and National Day holidays.
In an interview with the Hong Kong Economic Journal in Beijing, Lo said Hong Kong’s lack of support for the tourism sector is to blame for the current situation where the flood of mainland travelers engaged in parallel trading has become a political problem.
Lo said former city officials, including former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, had expressed concerns over the mounting number of mainland tourists during their terms of office, but they did not do much in terms of supporting the industry.
He cited the lack of sites and facilities for tourists in the city. Unlike Hong Kong, Macau has built a lot of facilities over the past few years, Lo said.
“Macau is now like Las Vegas. What has Hong Kong built these past few years? The West Kowloon cultural project is stuck while the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal is nothing special,” he said.
Hong Kong has called for curbs to the individual travel scheme as the influx of mainland visitors has overwhelmed the city’s facilities and alienated many local residents.
The program was introduced in 2003 to help the territory regain its economic momentum following the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS, and was further relaxed in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis.
The veteran travel executive acknowledged that the influx of mainland tourists has disrupted the normal lives of Hong Kong residents.
But Lo said Hong Kong must prepare itself for the expansion of the solo visit scheme to include more mainland cities. It has to beef up its tourist facilities and services by developing Lantau Island or building shopping malls at the border, for example.
Translation by Vey Wong [Chinese version]
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