Agents in weekly review of Bangkok

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 May, 2010, 12:00am

Holidaymakers who had paid for package tours to Bangkok can rest easy. Many tours to the Thai capital were cancelled because of the recent unrest, but travellers can either reschedule their tours within six months or receive a refund, minus the travel agent's service charge of HK$150.

'The service charge is for the agents, as they have spent [a lot of] time assisting travellers to [get] refunds from airlines and hotels,' says Joseph Tung, executive director of the Hong Kong Travel Industry Council.

Once the government's Security Bureau puts out a travel alert on a country, the council will hold a meeting with travel agents who are organising tours to that particular destination. Agents will then decide whether to proceed with tours or cancel them, Tung says. The council has a membership of about 1,500 travel agents.

All agents must register their tours with the council before promoting them, so it was easy to compile a list of those agents who had arranged tours to Bangkok, he adds.

Once a decision is made about a tour destination, the council issues a media release. At the moment, agents are reviewing the situation in Bangkok on a weekly basis to see 'whether tours to the troubled capital will operate or not', Tung says. Since April 10, the Security Bureau has maintained a black alert on Bangkok. This is the highest alert level, warning travellers not to go to the Thai capital.

On March 10, the bureau issued a red alert, warning travellers of a significant threat in Bangkok. For travellers who had booked air and hotel packages, the council advises they contact their travel agents for a refund or other options.

Package tours are organised by travel agents, which means they are responsible for making all the arrangements. However, air and hotel packages are an individual's decision whether to go there or not, Tung says.

At the moment, no other country has been issued with a black or red alert. The lowest alert, amber, which suggests monitoring the situation and exercising caution, has been placed on Greece, Indonesia, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Russia.

The Security Bureau's Outbound Travel Alert warning applies to 60 countries that are popular travel destinations for Hongkongers.

When the bureau assesses a threat, it factors in the nature of the threat, in particular whether it is targeted at travellers, and the level and duration of the threat, according to its website.

The bureau also suggests travellers check its website before going abroad.

'It is, however, a personal decision whether a Hong Kong resident chooses to continue the journey and travel abroad,' the website states.