LCQ22: Support for tourism industry
The Government announced in 2020/21 the introduction of a Special 100% Loan Guarantee (Special Loan) to relieve the financial pressure on enterprises affected by the epidemic. However, some members of the tourism industry have relayed that as banks have tightened credits to them, the Special Loan is of limited help to the tourism industry and cannot support enterprises which are in urgent need of capital to relaunch their businesses after the resumption of normal traveller clearance between the Mainland and Hong Kong. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective numbers of applications from travel agents and from cross-boundary transportation companies received, approved, rejected and being processed by the participating lending institutions of the Special Loan, as well as the total amount of loans granted to such enterprises so far, together with a breakdown by quarter; the reasons for those applications being rejected;
(2) as some members of the industry have pointed out that the maximum facility amount of the Special Loan is determined on the basis of employee wages and rents payable by the enterprises, but the area of rented office accommodation and the scale of manpower of the industry have been substantially reduced amid the epidemic, resulting in a limited amount of loan which cannot meet their capital needs upon resumption of business, whether the Government has considered adjusting the criteria for calculating the maximum facility amount of the Special Loan in the light of the short-term capital needs of the tourism industry; and
(3) whether it will launch a dedicated fund to support the tourism industry and provide low-interest loans, so as to assist the micro-, small- and medium-enterprises concerned in resuming normal business and assist the tourism industry in recovering; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
In respect of the question raised by the Hon Yiu Pak-leung, having consulted the Commerce, Economic and Development Bureau, the consolidated reply is as follows:
(1) In April 2020, the Government launched the Special 100% Loan Guarantee which aims to alleviate the pressure of enterprises that are affected by the epidemic in paying employees' wages and rents owing to reduced income, in a bid to minimise business closures and layoffs. Since the launch of the Loan Guarantee, the Government has introduced multiple rounds of enhancement measures in light of the economic situation to further alleviate the cash flow problems of enterprises. As at the end of 2022, the Special 100% Loan Guarantee had approved more than 58 000 loan applications, involving a total of over $115 billion. Among them, 3 560 applications were from the tourism, hotel, hospitality and transportation (including cross-boundary transportation) sectors, involving about $6.5 billion of loans and benefitting about 2 000 enterprises. So far, only a total of 12 applications from these sectors was rejected, mainly owing to the applicants' ineligibility or failure to provide the necessary supporting documents.
Please see annex for the quarterly statistics of the Special 100% Loan Guarantee.
(2) The Government has introduced multiple rounds of enhancementmeasures for the Special 100% Loan Guarantee, including increasing the maximum loan amount per enterprise to the total amount of employees' wages and rents for 27 months, subject to a cap of $9 million. An enterprise, which is eligible and has not used up the maximum loan amount allowable under the scheme, may consider applying for a top-up loan by submitting proofs of actual payment of employees' wages and rents of the latest two months to reflect the latest business situation of the enterprise. In addition, having regard to the characteristics of the tourism and related transportation sectors, the Special 100% Loan Guarantee has, since October 2022, allowed parking expenses without a fixed lease (the concerned vehicle must have a passenger service licence or a passenger service licence certificate) to be counted as rental expenses in calculating the loan amount. The aforementioned enhancement measures should help relevant enterprises obtain loans.
(3) During the pandemic, the Government has been actively equipping travel agents and practitioners of the tourism industry through various schemes and arrangements as well as provision of cash subsidy in order to prepare for the restart of tourism activities and to gradually restore various supporting facilities in Hong Kong for receiving tourists, thereby assisting the trade to ramp up its capabilities.
In the past three years, the Government introduced support measures with a commitment of over $4.48 billion to provide continuous support to the trade. Among them, to follow the policy direction of shaping tourism with cultural activities and promoting culture through tourism and to further prepare for the return of visitors, the Green Lifestyle Local Tour Incentive Scheme, the Cultural and Heritage Sites Local Tour Incentive Scheme and the Travel Agents Incentive Scheme support the travel trade in retaining operational manpower on the one hand, while incentivising the trade to develop and launch more tourism itineraries and products with cultural, heritage and green elements on the other hand, thereby supporting the trade to resume business in a gradual manner. These subsidy schemes will continue.
Regarding the promotion of manpower training, the Government has engaged the Travel Industry Authority (TIA) to implement the Training Subsidy Scheme for Practitioners of the Travel Industry with a commitment of $60 million for three years starting from last November in a bid to enhance the professional standards and service quality of the trade so as to prepare for the restart of tourism activities. The TIA is all set in strengthening industry regulation and undertaking the functions of ensuring the orderly manner of tourism activities and enhancing the professional standards of the industry.
Furthermore, the Hong Kong Tourism Board has completed the promotional plan on tourism recovery and has activated and strengthened publicity and promotional work in overseas and Mainland markets in complement with the recovery situation and pace of outbound travel of different visitor source markets to consolidate Hong Kong as a world-class tourism destination. Relevant measures include continuing to display positive messages around the world, launching timely worldwide large-scale promotional campaigns, staging and supporting an exciting line-up of mega events, as well as stepping up efforts in supporting meeting, incentive travels, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) with a view to attracting different conventions and exhibitions to settle in or return to Hong Kong, thereby striving for more high value-added overnight visitors to Hong Kong and re-establishing Hong Kong as the premier MICE destination in the region, etc.
The Government will continue to adopt a multi-pronged approach to assist the tourism industry to recover in an orderly manner. We will closely monitor the effectiveness of various measures and maintain communication with the trade.
Ends/Wednesday, January 11, 2023
Issued at HKT 15:35
Issued at HKT 15:35