190 Hongkongers stranded in Vietnam after travel agency folds
Ng Kang-chung and Ernest Kao
About 190 Hong Kong travellers have been stranded in Vietnam after the travel agency hosting them went out of business.
Five groups on package tours organised by Guangdong Travel ran into problems when the agency's Vietnamese partner went bust during the Lunar New Year holiday.
Four of the groups - comprising about 190 travellers - remain stranded, while a fifth group of about 40 people managed to leave the country after being held up at a checkpoint in Mong Cai, in the north of the country, for three hours.
The group's immigration documents were in the hands of the Vietnamese agency, but they were allowed to leave after Hong Kong authorities intervened. The group is expected to arrive in Hong Kong today.
All five groups departed Hong Kong between January 30 and February 1, with each traveller having paid about HK$2,000. A coach took them from Shenzhen to Hanoi and onto Halong Bay, with stopovers in Beihai , Guangxi province and Zhanjiang , Guangdong province.
Guangdong Travel said the travellers were safe and it was "trying to bring them all back to Hong Kong as soon as possible".
It had been working with the licensed Vietnamese agency for about six months without any problems. "But starting [on Saturday] they disappeared and we were not able to reach them," said general manager Chow Wai-hung. "To put it in harsh terms, they have probably fled."
By yesterday, two of the groups had made it to Hanoi while the other two were in Halong Bay.
The Hong Kong Travel Industry Council said it had tried to contact the Vietnamese tourism authorities "but they were unavailable because of the holiday".
The Immigration Department said it had alerted the Chinese foreign ministry's office in Hong Kong and was in contact with Guangdong Travel.