The Travel Industry Council will hold member companies liable for the actions of their appointed tour guides if they fail to comply with new measures protecting mainland tour groups from 'zero-fare' tours that force them to shop.
From next Thursday, tour guides receiving mainland tour groups will have to provide members with a detailed itinerary and a complete rundown of activities to help prevent disputes. It must specify the hotel accommodation and day-to-day activities, including which shops the tour is to visit. It must also spell out that the tour group is not required to shop and highlight members' rights as consumers. A complaints hotline must be included.
'Before, it was never really made clear what sort of arrangement was in place,' said Ronnie Ho Pak-ting, the council's chairman. 'We often hear of instances where a mainland tour group crosses the border only to be told by the tour guide that fares for coach transportation are not included. We want to avoid situations like this.'
Michael Wu Siu-ieng, on the council's compliance committee, said travel companies registered with the council would be responsible for ensuring their appointed tour guides comply with the measures, even though it would still depend on the public to alert it to possible violations.
An associate professor of tourism at Polytechnic University, John Ap, said the move was a step in the right direction but demonstrated the council's lack of enforcement powers.
'Having a detailed itinerary shows greater accountability on the part of the tour operator,' he said. 'But I find this ridiculous as a detailed itinerary should be the case in the first place.'