Travellers left high and dry as Smart Holiday closes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 January, 2013, 5:17am

Travel agency Smart Holiday closed its branches across the city yesterday after its licence was cancelled, leaving 1,900 travellers out of pocket.

Some 169 tours - and a total of HK$3 million in fees - are affected by the closure, a spokeswoman for the agency said.

She advised customers to visit the company's headquarters in Lai Chi Kok - which will remain open until Sunday, according to its website - for further information.

Travellers could also seek compensation from the Travel Industry Compensation Fund, which would pay up to 90 per cent of the outbound fare.

The company mainly organised tours to the mainland, as well as trips to Southeast Asia. Its offices in Causeway Bay, Mong Kok, Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan, Tai Wai and Yuen Long all closed their doors yesterday. The agency, mired in financial difficulties, had already closed three branches on January 1. It has yet to settle a debt of HK$50 million, the spokeswoman said.

The Travel Agents Registry, the government body which handles licensing, was told by representatives from the agency a month ago that the company was being restructured. It granted a one-month licence at the time, a spokesman for the registry said.

But in a meeting yesterday to review the licence, the registry told the agency it would cancel the licence because it did not believe the debt-ridden company could continue to offer tour services.

Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung said the watchdog had yet to receive any complaints about the agency's closure.

He said a company had proposed taking over the agency but it was not a firm offer.