Budget Tours That Cost too Much.
Evidently tourism authorities are worried that budget tour operators are ruining Hong Kong’s reputation as a desirable destination.
The prices of many tours, especially from the mainland, are less than the actual cost to the tour operator. So how does the tour operator make any money: by insuring that visitors spend a good part of their holiday time shopping in establishments that pay the operator a commission. Some of these commissions run as high as 50%, which indicates the buyers of such products are not getting a decent value.
In the past, there have been stories of customers not being allowed to leave the shop until they bought something. I believe that practice has disappeared and been replaced with an itinerary that takes people to shop after shop after shop until they buy something.
Looking at the prices advertised for Hong Kong tours on the internet, I’m not sure that such tactics are limited to mainland tourists but might include visitors from elsewhere in Asia and even from Japan, the U.S. and Europe.
I have experienced a version of such tactics in my visits to the mainland and other Asian destinations, usually described as a visit to a “factory” or “handicraft workshop.” I’ve learned to carry reading material and immediately sit in the lobby or the canteen and read until the rest of my party has endured a 30 minute sales pitch poorly disguised as an informational tour.
This tactic usually works and if the guide or shop staff continue to bug me, I just go outside until they leave me alone. One thing for sure is that the whole experience leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I reduce my tip to the guide accordingly. In some cases, particularly on the mainland, the guide has no choice and apologizes profusely. I accept that as long as I’m left alone to read.
My point is that I don’t think that Hong Kong is alone in perpetuating these scams although it appears that some Hong Kong tour operators are pushing the envelope in terms of number of shops, etc.
If the practice does not stop or is not at least alleviated, tourists will start to avoid Hong Kong for other destinations that don’t abuse them so much. That is why these so-called budget tours cost too much. They lower the attractiveness of Hong Kong and the tourists themselves end up spending more than they should.
Rather than trying to legislate the number of shops to be visited or limit the size of commissions, both of which can be subverted. Perhaps the government should force a little truth in advertising where tourists are advised as to what the real price of taking a budget tour is in terms of lost opportunities and over-priced junk to say nothing of how to counter pressure from unscrupulous tour operators.