'Another 1,000 travel agency staff face furlough' - RTHK
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'Another 1,000 travel agency staff face furlough'

2020-10-29 HKT 12:05
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  • Union leader Tong Kim-sang says conducting local tours will not generate enough money even to pay the tour guides. Photo: RTHK
    Union leader Tong Kim-sang says conducting local tours will not generate enough money even to pay the tour guides. Photo: RTHK
Violet Wong reports
A travel industry union estimated on Thursday that another 1,000 workers in the sector will be furloughed, like the 300 staff at the Sunflower agency who on Tuesday were notified that they will not be paid from now on.

Tong Kim-sang, who chairs the Travel Industry (Outbound) Tour Escort and Tour Guide Union, told an RTHK programme that he expected another two or three big firms to stop paying staff salaries while retaining their positions.

He said such announcements would not come as a surprise as tour guides have been taking unpaid leave since the Lunar New Year when the travel industry ground to a halt after the coronavirus outbreak started on the mainland.

Tong said conducting local tours to help the industry is not very lucrative, as they generate only HK$20 to HK$30 per head, which he said was not even enough to pay the tour guides.

With the present scarcity of jobs, he said, most travel agency workers would agree to go without pay and keep their jobs, if there were no extra conditions.

Yuen Chun-ning, CEO of a prominent local travel agency, WWPKG Holdings, said on another radio programme that rumour has it that around 10 well-known firms will furlough or even lay off their workers, though he said his company has no plans to follow suit.

The Travel Industry Council's chairman, Jason Wong, said more travel agencies will close after the government's wage subsidy scheme ends next month, urging the administration to extend the much-needed lifeline to the sector.

He said it's even more important to implement a health code or travel bubble policies, so the industry can do business again on the mainland and in Macau and other places.