Tourism unions on Wednesday said government handouts would be needed to lure back workers who've left the industry during the pandemic as the sector attempts to rebuild with the ending of Covid restrictions.
Speaking days after the full restoration of quarantine-free travel with the mainland, they called on the administration to pay a subsidy of HK$3,000 a month for six months to anyone who returns to work as a tour guide or coach driver.
Lam Chi-ting from the Hong Kong Tourism Industry Employees General Union said that with visitor numbers still low, the industry was struggling to bring back workers who'd switched to other jobs.
"Tour guides could earn HK$15-16,000 a month before the pandemic, as they could lead three or four tour groups. But they will have far lower incomes now, at around HK$8-9,000, because there are few tour groups visiting Hong Kong," Lam said.
"Some former tourism workers may think they will be able to earn more when staying in their new jobs, so they will not be attracted back into the industry," he added.
George Yuan, who worked as a freelance tour guide for 30 years before Covid hit, switched to an administrative post for the government's vaccination programme in 2021.
And he said because of his current work schedule, he found it hard to become a freelance tour guide again, and that others too may not be interested in working in the trade anymore.
"Many tour guides I know have already moved to other industries such as property management. They will not abandon their fixed income to return to tourism," Yuan told RTHK.
Hector Ngai from the Hotels, Food and Beverage Employees Association said the hotel industry was also struggling to find new staff as many former workers had settled into new jobs.
He said this increased the workload of those employees who are still in the industry.
"There are currently around 89,000 hotel rooms in Hong Kong but only around 28,000 hotel services workers. Many hotels need to ask them to work overtime. Now they need to clean up at least 20 rooms before they can be off work instead of 12 to 15 rooms normally," Ngai said.
The unions suggested the government could also provide assistance in employment and training to help replenish manpower in the tourism industry.
The government last week launched a major push to attract tourists, with free air tickets and vouchers on offer under the "Hello Hong Kong" campaign. Industry leaders have welcomed the campaign but said that a shortage of staff is one of the factors likely to delay a return to pre-pandemic visitor numbers.
Last updated: 2023-02-08 HKT 21:17