The Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong (TIC) was established in 1978 to protect the interests of travel agents. After continuous lobbying by the TIC, the Government enacted the Travel Agents Ordinance in 1985 to make it mandatory for all outbound travel agents to be licensed.
When the Government amended the Ordinance in 1988, recognition was accorded to the TIC because of its unstinting efforts in representing and regulating the industry since its inception. Under the Travel Agents (Amendment) Ordinance 1988 , TIC membership became a statutory requirement for obtaining the Travel Agent’s Licence, which was legally required of a company intending to carry on travel business.
A TIC Reserve Fund (TICRF) was subsequently set up as one of the measures to protect outbound travellers. Travel agents were required to contribute 1% of the outbound fare received as a levy to the TICRF. In the event of agent default, affected travellers were entitled to an ex gratia payment of 70% of the outbound fare paid. The TIC has since then been working closely with the Travel Agents Registry to monitor the operation of travel agents and to maintain a high professional standard of the industry.
In 1990, the TIC and the TICRF became public bodies under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance.
In 1991, the TIC, together with five other member associations of the Joint Council of the Travel Industry of Hong Kong, successfully lobbied for a new Tourism Functional Constituency seat on the Legislative Council to ensure industry views were heard by legislators.
In September 1992, the Government reduced the levy level from 1% to 0.5% and raised the ceiling of the ex gratia payment from 70% to 80% of the outbound fare paid.
In October 1993, the Travel Agents (Amendment) Ordinance 1993 was put into force and the statutory Travel Industry Compensation Fund (TICF) was set up to replace the TICRF.
The Package Tour Accident Contingency Fund Scheme was introduced in February 1996 to widen the protection net for travellers. The scheme, financed by the TICF, aims to provide financial relief, the maximum amount of which is HK$300,000, to outbound travellers who have run into an accident while touring abroad and to their relatives.
In view of the reserves of the TICF having reached HK$200 million, the TIC proposed to the Government to increase the ex gratia payment to 90% of the outbound fare paid; the proposal was adopted in December 1996. The levy was also reduced from 0.5% to 0.3% in May 1997.
With the Travel Agents (Amendment) Ordinance 2002 taking effect in November 2002, all inbound travel agents providing travel services for overseas and mainland visitors are required to apply for the Travel Agent’s Licence. And one of the licensing conditions is to become TIC members first. In other words, inbound travel agents, like their outbound counterparts, are also subject to the regulation of the TIC, which is proof of the recognition of the Government and the public for the work of the TIC.
In July 2009, the Government accepted the TIC’s proposal to further reduce the levy from 0.3% to 0.15% since the balance of the TICF had already exceeded HK$500 million.
From April to July 2011, the Government consulted the public about the operation and regulatory framework of Hong Kong’s tourism sector, and in December announced the consultation findings, proposing to set up an independent statutory body, the Travel Industry Authority (TIA), as the overall regulatory body of the tourism sector.
In March 2013, the TIC submitted a proposal to the Government, suggesting that after the establishment of the TIA, the TIC should be allowed to take up non-regulatory public functions, to which the Government agreed in July. Nevertheless, at the Extraordinary General Meeting held in March 2014, the proposal, in the form of a special resolution, was not adopted.
In July 2013, with a view to better regulating travel agents providing reception services for inbound tour groups from mainland China, the Government initially planned to require those travel agents to deposit guarantee money of HK$800,000 with the TIA. After intense lobbying by the TIC, the Government agreed to reduce the amount concerned.
In March 2017, the Travel Industry Bill was gazetted, and was later introduced to the Legislative Council.
In late November 2018, the Travel Industry Bill was passed after three readings in the Legislative Council, and in early December 2018, the Travel Industry Ordinance was gazetted and has officially become law.
The new regulatory regime of the travel industry comes into full operation on 1 September 2022, marking a significant milestone in the development of the Hong Kong travel industry. The TIC, having completed its historic mission of self-regulating the industry, took up the role of the federation of trade associations as the industry enters a new era. The TIC ceased to be a public body under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance on the same day.