Residents in Tung Chung on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island have complained about the sudden influx of mainland tourists from a newly opened mega bridge, raising concerns the community will become another crowded cross-border town.
With tens of thousands of travellers coming through on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, those living in the quiet middle-to-lower-class area are calling on authorities to enhance transport and tourism services to improve visitor flows. Tung Chung is a residential zone closest to the bridge checkpoint, which is situated on an artificial island north of Lantau.
Hong Kong’s Tourism Commission had raised the concerns to the Guangdong Tourism Bureau and urged for better coordination of the tour groups, the Post has learned.
On a radio show on Monday, a Tung Chung caller, who went only by her surname Cheung, said the problem had worsened since the bridge opened on October 23.
“There is no space for us in Tung Chung. The shops are so crowded with tourists, who sit everywhere … I have to escape on Sundays now,” she said.
The 55km bridge is the world’s largest sea crossing and opened two weeks ago. It saw a record-high number of users – more than 90,000 – pass through the Hong Kong side on Sunday, of which 50,000 entered the city. This compared with 86,000 people passing through on Saturday.
While the government had rolled out measures to improve shuttle bus services and avoid a repeat of the earlier travel chaos when the bridge opened, the problem shifted to Tung Chung.
Residents complained their peaceful community was becoming like Sheung Shui, the northern New Territories border town popular with mainland travellers, as shopping malls were flooded with tourists.
The noise was also a nuisance, as outgoing travellers formed 100m queues on the street for public bus route B6 to the port area in the evening.
Another caller, surnamed Ng, said he felt sorry for Tung Chung residents, adding that Hong Kong’s tourism sector had to find ways to help the community.
“I was there on Sunday morning, and it looked nothing like Hong Kong. There were mainland tourists, and plastic bottles thrown by them everywhere,” Ng recalled.
“Did [tourism authorities] think of Hongkongers’ well-being, public hygiene and transport issues or were they only thinking of making money?”
Questions were also raised over whether the tour groups visiting Tung Chung were authorised.
Jason Wong Chun-tat, chairman of the Tourism Industry Council and owner of Hong Thai Travel Services, said on the programme that mainland travel agents were supposed to contact their Hong Kong counterparts, so local agents could take over once visitors passed the port area.
He said an arrangement requiring mainland operators to register with local authorities would offer better protection for travellers and enable the council to follow up on any complaints.
Wong said he believed that many mainland tourists thronging Tung Chung had joined tour groups that skipped liaising with Hong Kong agents. Their tour guides mainly brought them from the port area to Tung Chung on the B6 bus route to shop and walk around for a few hours before returning to home.
“We will talk to the tourism sector and authorities in Guangdong and Zhuhai about this,” Wong pledged. “There are many tourist attractions in Hong Kong, and we don’t want to create a burden for Tung Chung residents.”
Lawmaker Holden Chow Ho-ding said he suspected some of the tours could be illegal. He said he was in touch with Hong Kong’s commerce officials on Monday, and was told that Guangdong authorities were aware of the mainland tours visiting the city without official approval.
“The crowdedness in Tung Chung on Sunday is comparable to Sheung Shui … I will ask the Security Bureau to step up law enforcement to tackle these illegal tours,” he said.
Chow, who represents residents as he is on the Islands District Council, also urged the Transport and Housing Bureau to move the B6 bus station further away from residential complexes in the area.
“There are no restaurants or shops in the port area. I will tell the bureau that there should be such facilities so tourists don’t need to come to Tung Chung,” he added.