Travel regulator may hand over disciplinary powers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 June, 2011, 12:00am


The travel industry regulator may propose handing over its powers to punish errant tour agencies and guides to the government.

At present the Travel Industry Council can decide on penalties for breaches of its guidelines, which include suspension of guides' licences and fines for agencies.

But chairman Michael Wu Siu-ieng said yesterday it might transfer this disciplinary power back to the government. 'After we received complaints from tourists, we could still look into them ... but we would not make decisions on how violators should be penalised,' he said.

The proposal is likely to be part of the council's submission to the government on reforms to the travel industry in the wake of a string of complaints about abuses.

The government is inviting public views on four proposals.

They are: to reform the existing council; to transfer some of the council's regulatory functions to the government; to set up a statutory body to take up the council's regulatory functions; and to let a government department take over the council's role.

Wu said he expected to put forward proposals in his submission that would increase the organisation's credibility and transparency.

As well as giving up some of its regulatory functions, the council may also increase its number of non-trade members to dilute its image as a trade organisation.

Of 29 board members, 17 come from the travel industry and the remaining 12 are appointed by the government. Non-trade members may be increased so they would become the majority. Another issue is whether the council should keep its power to issue licences to tour guides. Some front-line staff have criticised it as being biased towards tour agencies and punishing guides too heavily.

Members of the council will be asked their views before the consultation period ends on July 15.

Meanwhile, complaints received by the watchdog decreased in the first four months of this year.

It received 109 complaints, 31 per cent fewer than the corresponding period a year ago. Outbound tourism remained strong, particularly in April, thanks to the long Easter break.