Representatives from the city's ailing tourism sector staged a slow-drive protest on Monday morning, calling on the government to offer more help by rolling out compulsory virus tests and allowing cross-border travel.
Several coaches drove slowly from Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai to the government's headquarters in Tamar, after the sector said drivers of more than 1,000 coaches were forced out of work due to the pandemic since January.
Freddy Yip, chairman of the Hong Kong Travel Agent Owners Association, said although local tours are now allowed to operate, the response wasn't as enthusiastic as he expected.
He said the market for local tours isn't big, and they wouldn’t do much to help tourism overall.
He urged authorities to roll out compulsory testing for Covid-19 so travellers can be allowed to move around and cross the border.
Other representatives at the protest called on the government to implement a health code scheme that would allow Hong Kong people to travel to Guangdong and Macau, and not be quarantined on arrival, after they’re given a clean bill of health.
Wong Ka-ngai, who chairs the Hong Kong Tour Guides General Union, added that local tour guides cannot earn much commission when they lead local tours.
He said visitors from the mainland usually make up 80 percent of total inbound tourists, and repeated the call for authorities to implementing a health code.
The Hong Kong Tourism Association said it's worried many tour agencies will not be able to survive when a wage subsidy provided by the government comes to an end next month.
Its spokesman Timothy Chui said the cost to travel agencies for organising local tours had increased because they needed to buy extra masks and hand sanitizer. He warned that the city's tourism and retail sectors would be dealt a further blow if cross-border travel could not be resumed soon.
Meanwhile, an infectious disease specialist has warned of the risk of infection within local tours.
Dr Joseph Tsang urged the government to step up checks on local tours to ensure infection control measures are being properly implemented.
Tsang told an RTHK programme that people joining these tours should be prepared for quarantine, because if other participants were found with Covid-19, they would be considered a close contact.
He said people should maintain good personal hygiene as there were still infections from unknown sources in the community.