Hong Kong tour operators to have free rein in Guangdong outbound tourism
The Guangdong Tourism Association is tasked to promote the setting up of tour companies solely or jointly owned by Hong Kong investors.
Under the Framework Agreement for Hong Kong/Guangdong Cooperation, the Guangdong Tourism Association is tasked to promote the setting up of tour companies solely or jointly owned by Hong Kong investors to organize outbound travel for mainlanders this year. It will lead Hong Kong service providers to form tourism operations in free trade zones, as well as expedite cooperative initiatives such as establishing the information management system for
144-hour visa-free tours for foreign visitors.
Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences Tourism Research Center director Weiguang Zhuang believes that this will promote the adaptation of Hong Kong’s proven tourism service concepts in Guangdong province and stimulate development in the domestic tourism industry.
144-hour visa-free permits to be expanded
Accelerating the development of Guangdong province’s 144-hour visa-free tour information management system will lay the groundwork for implementing a convenient 144-hour visa-free policy for foreign visitors in the province. Launched in 2000, the visa-free policy allows foreign nationals to visit nine major cities in the Pearl River delta and the coastal city of Shantou. Mr. Zhuang said the visa would be expanded to include the entire province this year. At the same time, tour companies set up solely or jointly by Hong Kong tour operators will be encouraged to operate outbound tours for mainland travelers (excluding to Taiwan).
More outbound choices for Guangdong residents
Foreign-owned tour operators have always struck a “policy barrier” when entering the mainland market. In 2011 domestic companies in the outbound tourism market braced themselves for an onslaught when the China National Tourism Administration opened business licensing to foreign-owned companies. However, after four years the penetration of the Chinese market by foreign companies is negligible and few Chinese consumers have used a foreign-owned tour service.
“The Hong Kong is more internationalized and its tourism industry is more mature. Mainland companies have a lot to learn from them. Allowing Hong Kong-owned tour companies in mainland’s outbound travel business is a good starting point for Hong Kong-Guangdong operation in tourism services,” Mr. Zhuang said. “Although the entry of foreign companies into the local market may bring growing pains, it will help the market develop in a healthy and orderly way in the long term.”
To Guangzhou resident Mrs. Ma, price is the biggest issue: “Hong Kong operators offer plenty of cheap outbound tours. Will there be even more great-value choices after the mainland market opens up to them?” Nanhu Travel’s strategic marketing vice president Feng Su said Guangdong residents think that Hong Kong operators leverage lower airfare in Hong Kong to offer cheaper outbound tourism products, but nowadays many domestic operators depart from the SAR as well. “The major mainland tour operators have already built up comprehensive purchasing systems and supply chains over many years and can match any of the prices offered by Hong Kong competitors,” he observed.(Translation by David)