People across the city have long commented negatively on the number of mainland tourists, but the most recent controversy is coming from campuses. Students from several universities are angry over a recent influx of mainland Chinese tour groups, which they say are disrupting their daily lives on campus. The visitors have prompted one institution to increase campus management measures, such as recording the details of tour coaches attempting to enter school gates without first registering, or even turning them away.
Members of these package tour groups used services meant for staff and students, taking up space in canteens and on shuttle buses, the Chinese University (CUHK) student union said in a statement on Wednesday. These activities had a negative impact on students’ daily routines and the institution’s operation, it added.
Pictures taken recently and posted on CUHK Campus Radio’s Facebook page showed teenagers in uniform visiting well-known spots on campus. They also occupied tables at the popular Coffee Corner student canteen.
“We stress that our campus is not a tourist spot, but a place where we perform research, study and live,” the statement read.
Student union chairman Owen Au Cheuk-hei said a typical tour group might have about 40 members. Some of them were adults, but many seemed to be primary or secondary school pupils from the mainland. “They basically obstructed students from buying meals [at the canteens]. Half of Coffee Corner was taken up by them … The students are very annoyed. They urged the union to handle it,” he said.
The union said it was opposed to such commercial activities on campus and had raised the issue with the university’s management, which told the union these tour visits were not registered. CUHK said its campus was open to the public, but visitors were required to comply with its regulations during their stay.
A university spokesman said CUHK would step up its campus management measures, including recording the details of travel coaches that had not registered with the school beforehand. He said the university had the right to reject coaches without registration from entering the campus.
The school had also asked contractors running school canteens to make appropriate arrangements to reduce the impact on staff and students.
A similar situation was reported at the University of Hong Kong campus in Pok Fu Lam. Davin Wong, president of the HKU student union, said students had complained that groups of children in uniform, aged about six to 10, had been seen on campus with their tour guides over the last three months.
He did not know who organised the tours, but said they definitely disrupted HKU students’ daily routines. “Some students told us they couldn’t buy their meals [due to the crowds of visitors]. And [the tourists] didn’t know how to order food,” Wong said.
The union wrote to the institution’s Estates Office on Thursday to call for follow-up action. Tour groups were also seen at the University of Science and Technology in Clear Water Bay.
Sam Yu Chak-sum, the student union’s provisional president, said many young visitors had been wandering around the campus on Tuesday. They did not cause much disturbance because students were still on holiday, but problems might arise if they came when the school term had started, Yu said.
Various local and mainland travel agencies were found to have run such tours to tertiary institutions in the city. According to China’s largest online travel agency, Ctrip, a tour including a visit to CUHK and HKUST would cost 1,717 yuan (HK$2,000). A Mandarin-speaking tour guide is included, and CUHK’s scenic Pavilion of Harmony is part of the itinerary.
Local company Faith Travel also arranges university tours, with prices starting from HK$125.
Tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing, who is also chairman of China Travel Service (Hong Kong), said the agency organised two types of day-tour packages, which covered CUHK and HKU respectively, but he did not believe they would disturb the students, considering their small scale. The tours were for two to five people or a maximum of 15 respectively.
Yiu said institutions could bring their concerns to the Travel Industry Council, which could require agencies to ask for approval from the institutions before visiting.