Since the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong (TIC) was entrusted by the Government to self-regulate the inbound industry in 2002, it has introduced several mechanisms and regulations (including the Tourist Guide Accreditation System, 14-day/six-month total refund protection for group visitors, the Demerit System for Registered Shops and the Code of Business Practice on Inbound Travel Service) in order to monitor the services delivered by various parties of the industry, and has for the first time put the whole inbound industry under a comprehensive regulatory framework.
The Board of the TIC met today (8 June) and decided to immediately issue a directive, stipulating that travel agents must state in the itineraries distributed to visitors that tourist guides must not coerce visitors into making purchases or remaining inside the registered shops.
The TIC will issue a circular to all members reminding them that employment of illegal workers and production of counterfeit Tourist Guide Passes are criminal offences. It will also request those members involved in complaints about suspected coerced shopping and cases of suspected violations to provide information on the reception fees and the tour fares paid by the tour participants in total, and will verify such information with assistance from the relevant tourism bureaux. The TIC will also randomly check the name and the Tourist Guide Pass number of the tourist guides as given in mainland tour confirmation agreements.
The Board also set up a taskforce, headed by Chairman of the TIC and composed of convenors of the relevant committees and several independent directors, to conduct a comprehensive review of various operational aspects of package tours from the mainland, in order that the good reputation of Hong Kong tourism will not be ruined by a few unscrupulous members of the industry.
Apart from the above, the Board will also instruct the relevant committees to thoroughly study the introduction of tightened measures to regulate the inbound industry around the aspects of travel agents, tourist guides, registered shops and release of information.
As far as travel agents are concerned, the relevant committees will study whether travel agents will have to provide more information in the mainland tour confirmation agreements registered with the TIC and the itineraries distributed to visitors, such as the name and the Tourist Guide Pass number of each of the tourist guides, and the name of each of the registered shops and the duration of each of the visits to the shops.
As for tourist guides, the committee concerned will explore whether there is a need to amend the Code of Conduct for Tourist Guides to state in clearer terms that tourist guides must not in any way coerce or mislead visitors into making purchases, and must not force visitors to remain inside registered shops.
Regarding registered shops, the committee overseeing them will consider requesting them to sign a new warranty, in which they will have to pledge to verify and record information on each of the tourist guides who enter the shops, and to post in prominent places inside the shops posters provided by the TIC for the purpose of promoting the TIC’s inbound tourist service hotline.
In respect of release of information, the committee concerned will decide whether the durations of posting information about member violations and Tourist Guide Pass revocations and suspensions on the TIC website need to be extended to two years.