Tour debacle involving SIG Holiday revealed as branches halt operations
Vietnam incident involving 39 on tour run by city travel agency emerges as five branches halt operations and customers clamour for money back
Thirty-nine people on a holiday in Vietnam were dumped at the side of a road after a financial dispute involving their travel agency, it was claimed yesterday.
The trip was organised by SIG Holiday, which suspended operations at its five branches across the city on Thursday.
The company - run by former Travel Industry Council chairman Simon Hau Suk-kei - claimed the branches were being renovated. But the company's website www.sigholiday.com was also out of action.
Its licence was temporarily revoked by the Travel Agents Registry last night. Yesterday, customers flocked to the company's headquarters at Cheung Sha Wan Plaza to claim back money they had paid for trips.
And 270 customers lodged inquiries with the registry and the Travel Industry Council involving about HK$500,000.
The incident in Vietnam was revealed by a woman who set off on the six-day coach trip with two friends on November 8. They each paid HK$899. On the fourth day the group was abandoned on a highway. She said: "The [local] guide told us the travel agency had not settled some money disputes [with him]."
Their travel visas were held under lock and key by the guide, she said. The agency sent staff from Hong Kong to sort out the chaos and they returned to the city on schedule. The woman said she was issued a refund note last week and was told to go to the Mong Kok office to claim her money back in full.
When she got there yesterday, the windows of the office were completely covered with posters. Several men could be seen through a slit in the front doors packing boxes of documents and removing the company's logo.
"They issued me the note and asked me to come back to get the full refund this week," she said. "Now I don't know what to do with it."
Meanwhile, a man who paid about HK$1,300 for a two-day family trip to Xinhui in Guangdong was desperate to get his money back at the Cheung Sha Wan headquarters yesterday after the trip was cancelled. He said the travel agency did not inform him about the cancellation of the trip, which was due to set off today, and realised there was a problem only when he read a newspaper report.
Staff told him a cheque would be available on Monday, but he said: "I'm worried I won't get the money back."
In June, mainland business partners of SIG Holiday accused it of failing to pay a HK$900,000 debt. The dispute relates to visits by mainland tourists to Hong Kong co-organised by SIG Holiday and its partners.
Former Travel Industry Council chairman Hau has previously said he did not owe the mainland agents the amount they claimed and alleged he was overcharged.
A spokeswoman for the Tourism Commission's Travel Agents Registry said the registry had monitored closely the company's operations and finances.
Hau did not attend a meeting with the registry yesterday and could not be reached by phone.