The arrival of more travel agencies in the educational tour market has spurred the Travel Industry Council to introduce a code of business practice on study tours for its 1,450-plus travel agency members. The code's main purpose was to ensure young people would be well taken care of on tours and enhance transparency, said Joseph Tung Yao-chung, the council's executive director, which promotes standards and professionalism among travel agents and protects the interests of the trade and the public. The code, which applies to study tours where the major target participants are under the age of 18, comes into force on June 1. The Hong Kong Consumer Council welcomed the move as a way to enhance consumer rights. Deputy chief executive Connie Lau Yin-hing said: 'This is a great advance. We look forward to better operation of study tours to make sure children achieve their aims.' Membership of the council is a licensing requirement for travel agents, who must comply with its codes of conduct and directives. The code requires members to: Register study tours with the council in a similar way to ordinary package tours and provide documentation specifying organisations involved, schools at the destination, venues, study tour schedules, etc. Provide comprehensive and accurate information for tour participants, parents and tour organisers; and not vary arrangements from stated itineraries. If any alterations need to be made before departure, the council and participants' representatives must be immediately notified of any changes. Immediately notify the council and participants' representatives of any changes in accommodation after departure and offer compensation of 15 per cent of the tour fares, unless alterations are due to reasons beyond members' control. Victor Ng Kwok-kit, programme manager, language travel, at study tour provider EF Education, said the new code was a positive move: 'We are still reviewing the details but generally speaking it is good. It can regulate practice for the industry and customers can benefit.' He said the company would not have to make many changes in light of the code as it had been following similar practices in the past. Last year EF Education was the subject of a public complaint in which a Kowloon school group tour to Britain had problems with accommodation, transport, academic arrangements and extra-curricular activities. Mr Ng said this had been a late booking and there had been some miscommunication with the school before departure for the custom-made tour. Agents who fail to comply with the new directive will be subject to action by the council compliance committee. Penalties ranged from a fine of not more than $10,000 for a first offence to loss of membership in serious cases, Mr Tung said.