Chaos after tour firm collapse

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 August, 2011, 12:00am


Tourists left in limbo when a travel agency folded were told yesterday they could either join another agency without paying extra charges or start reclaiming their tour fees.

Travellers had a confusing weekend after the closure of Ideal Holiday.

According to Ideal's manager Cheung Ka-wai, the move was requested by the Travel Industry Council as a result of a cash-flow problem in arranging tour buses currently in high demand for the World University Games in Shenzhen.

The Travel Agents Registry, a government department, terminated Ideal's licence on Sunday night.

On Sunday at a joint press conference by the two agencies SIG Holiday said it was willing to take up most of the firm's tours.

But early yesterday, SIG seemed to step back from such a role. According to a customer of Ideal Holiday who approached SIG, staff told him to return to Ideal.

'The SIG staff rejected me indirectly, telling me they can't take customers from Ideal,' he said. 'Money doesn't really matter, but my kid will certainly be disappointed if the holiday is cancelled.

'I feel like SIG was more interested in advertising itself by announcing the rescue plan.'

He said he also signed a document when he visited the Kwun Tong branch of Ideal Holiday, titled 'refund application form', but staff did not guarantee him any refund.

His claim could now be made to the Travel Industry Compensation Fund, which would be available to all travellers whose trips lastd for two days or more, said Rosanna Law Shuk-pui, acting commissioner for tourism.

SIG's managing director, Simon Hau Suk-kei, later said the company would accept all affected travellers who had booked with Ideal, regardless of the duration of their trip.

This would suit one woman who paid HK$55 for a 'bird's-nest, abalone one-day tour' to Shenzhen and said she wanted to go ahead with the trip. She said the government's handling of the affair was chaotic.'I feel helpless. Isn't the government forcing it to shut down? I should sue it in court.'

But as Law, the tourism official, confirmed last night, the closure of Ideal Holiday was first submitted by Ideal to the Tourism Agents Registry on Saturday. Earlier, Ideal's manager, Cheung Ka-wai, said the winding up was at the Travel Industry Commission's request.

Paul Tse Wai-chun, lawmaker for the travel sector, said Ideal's licence would not be reactivated. He said more discussions would be needed in future on what could or could not be done when a travel agent's licence was terminated. But some other customers had sympathy for the business in the wake of the closure.

'The owner was an honest guy... If he aimed at deceiving us, he wouldn't have charged us just a hundred bucks,' said one customer, who had signed up for a one-day trip to Shenzhen later this month.