Update HK tourism regulation
Updated: 2013-02-20 16:20
3A Holidays, the local travel agency that triggered a publicity storm after failing to obtain hotel accommodation for three package tour groups according to contract last week, finally sent a corporate representative to the Travel Industry Council (TIC) to explain the incident on Monday. The agency admitted it was negligent in some respect but insisted a mainland counterpart was responsible for the three package tours.
Hong Kong's travel industry saw remarkable returns during the Chinese New Year holidays, but the city's reputation as a tourist destination was also hurt by a string of fiascoes, which exposed the inadequacy of Hong Kong's tourism regulation system and accommodation facilities. Such shortcomings have weakened the city's competitiveness and relevant authorities must fully review the regulatory system so as to ensure healthy development of the travel industry.
It is the responsibility of Hong Kong-based travel agencies to arrange accommodation for package tour groups they have registered, but 3A Holidays failed to find them hotel beds according to contractual obligations. Instead it shifted all blames to a mainland-based agency and even called the TIC's criticism "ridiculous". This shows 3A Holidays is not afraid of the penalties it faces for malpractices that border on commercial fraud, which is a criminal by definition.
The TIC should hand the case over to the police for further investigation, which would hopefully provide an effective deterrence against wayward businesses like 3A Holidays. It is also necessary for relevant authorities to step up supervision and regulation of local travel agencies and make sure mainland-based illegal intermediaries are barred from entering Hong Kong market at the local travel industry's expense.
This is an excerpted translation of a Wen Wei Po editorial published on Tuesday.