The Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong (TIC) announced today (8 November) that the Tourist Guide Pass of the tourist guide who had recently abandoned a tour group from Qinghai province was suspended by the Tourist Guide Deliberation Committee for three months, and the travel agent responsible for providing reception services for the tour group was fined HK$100,000 and its membership was suspended for one month on probation for six months by the Compliance Committee.
The Tourist Guide Deliberation Committee met on 3 November to deliberate on the case involving the tourist guide. In view of the seriousness of the case, the Committee found that he had violated Paragraphs 6(i) and 9(iii) of the Code of Conduct for Tourist Guides, namely that tourist guides shall always have regard for the interests of visitors and the reputation of the Hong Kong tourism industry, and that tourist guides shall not coerce or mislead visitors into making purchases, and therefore decided to suspend his Tourist Guide Pass for three months, from which 14 days would be deducted as his Pass had already been suspended during the period.
Mr Joseph Tung, Executive Director of the TIC, stressed, "The Tourist Guide Deliberation Committee was of the view that although the tourist guide admitted his own mistake, this incident not only affected the interests of the tour group, but also damaged the reputation of Hong Kong and Hong Kong tourism and gravely affected the industry. The Committee therefore decided to suspend his Pass for three months. I hope all tourist guides will learn a lesson from this incident."
Also, the Compliance Committee met today to deliberate on the case where the travel agent providing reception services for the Qinghai tour group was involved. It found that the agent had violated Paragraph 3(6)(a) of the Code of Business Practice on Inbound Travel Service, namely that members shall ensure that their tourist guides observe the Code of Conduct for Tourist Guides. In view of the severe damage to the image of Hong Kong and the industry because of the incident, the Committee decided to impose a fine of HK$100,000 on the travel agent and suspend its membership for one month on probation for six months. In other words, if the agent is found to have violated any rules or directives relating to inbound travel service within the six-month probationary period, its membership will be immediately suspended for one month.
In relation to the Compliance Committee's decision, Mr Tung explained, "The Committee was of the view that since the tourist guide had been found to have violated the relevant rules, the travel agent also had a vicarious responsibility in that regard. After considering several mitigating factors, such as members of the Qinghai tour group being satisfied with the arrangements of the agent, the tourist guide having admitted that the abandoning of the tour group was not related to the travel agent in any way, and the lack of evidence to prove that the travel agent instructed the guide to abandon the tour group, the Committee decided to place the agent on probation."
Tourist guides or travel agents penalised by the TIC may lodge an appeal to the Appeal Board within 14 days. The Appeal Board is composed of trade and non-trade members, and each of its meetings must have five members, three of whom must be from outside the trade. The Tourist Guide Deliberation Committee has 13 members, six of whom are trade members (including one representing tourist guides), and seven are non-trade members. The Compliance Committee consists of 16 members, eight of them being trade members and eight being non-trade members.