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Travel agencies can receive a government subsidy of up to $50,000 for organising eco-tours under a plan aimed at providing assistance to the tourism industry badly affected by current social events, Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Edward Yau said today.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Yau explained that the scheme is capped at $50,000 for each licensed travel agency and will begin January 1. He also stated that firms will be provided $100 for each customer they book on designated green tours.
“So, we hope that this scheme will also provide timely assistance to the hard-hit tourism trade, where this small token could encourage more travel agents or tourist guides to spend time in organising such activities for the enjoyment of our local community.”
Mr Yau shared that the initiative is being launched in response to recommendations from the public and tourism trade.
“I think there has been a lot of suggestions that while we are having a tough period in terms of incoming tourists, would it open up opportunities for Hong Kong people spending their time in our precious and most welcoming green spots including country parks which occupy over 40% of Hong Kong’s territory, or specific thematic natural wonders including our geopark which has a global geopark status, or including some of the very interesting environmental facilities?
“These attractions by themselves have been something that we have been advocating, both in the Environment Bureau’s policy perspective as well as our tourism blueprint issued a year ago,” he added.
Mr Yau noted that the scheme is specifically catered for local travel agencies that serve Hong Kong residents.
The Government had earlier announced a plan to give travel agencies $120 for each overnight visitor they attract to Hong Kong.
“We are rolling this out as a supplement to the earlier scheme, helping the industry, but also finding collaboration with the Environment Bureau focusing on green tourism.”
He further explained that the scheme will initially run for six months.
“We have made resources available, but at the same time we also need to consider the capacity issue of travel agents, because not all the 1,700 travel agencies are all catering for locals. So, we need to make sure that the tourist guides are well equipped and also fully prepared.
“That’s why we intend to roll out this for six months and see how the responses will come and it also depends on the circumstances.”
Travel agents that provide the eco-tour will be responsible for arranging transport and meals for participants.
They should also observe green rules by ensuring that no plastic wares are provided to participants and encourage them to take their rubbish away after visiting green spots.