Travel Industry Council clamps down on shady tour agents with new rules

Operators will soon have to provide proof of hotel bookings for visitors to Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 April, 2013, 4:46am

The Travel Industry Council has taken action to ensure visitors to Hong Kong have proper accommodation booked and have a pleasant stay in the city.

From April 29, inbound tour organisers would have to submit proof to the council that they had booked accommodation for their tour members before they arrived, the council said yesterday.

The proof could take the form of confirmation of a booking from a hotel or a booking agent, with the hotel name and number of rooms booked.

"Those organising tours which include shopping arrangements are required to submit the documents to us two days before their arrival. Those operating non-shopping tours can provide us with the information any time before the tourists arrive," said council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung.

Shopping tours faced stricter requirements as most complaints arose from such tours, he said. Under the new rules, agencies which failed to secure hotel bookings would be penalised.

The penalty terms would be decided by the council's compliance committee, with the most serious punishment being revocation of an agency's licence.

Apart from hotel booking documents, agencies must provide other information, including length of stay at shopping points.

The new measures were prompted by blunders involving 3A Holidays over the Lunar New Year. In one incident, tourists had to sleep on a tour bus after their promised hotel rooms did not materialise. In another, seven tourists were told they had to spend the night in a room intended for four people.

The council had yet to complete its investigation of the agency, but the Travel Agents Registry suspended its licence.

Michael Li Hon-shing, executive director of the Federation of Hotel Owners, said he hoped the new rules would eradicate improper practices. "There have been agencies which have not been booking hotels in advance. To get last-minute bargains, they walk into hotels on the day of arrival," he said.