How to Choose Your Travel Agent?
Traditional travel agent
- According to the Travel Agents Ordinance, travel agents which carry on outbound or inbound travel business must first join the TIC and then obtain a Travel Agent’s Licence. If, however, a travel agent does not carry on either of these two kinds of business, it may choose to join the TIC without obtaining a licence; in other words, a TIC member may not be a licensed travel agent. Therefore, when you want to buy outbound travel services or products, buy only from licensed travel agents.
- For detailed information about whether a travel agent has a licence, visit the website of the Travel Agents Registry or call it on (852)3151-7945. Or you may go to this website’s “Find a Member Travel Agent” section for such information or call the TIC on (852)2969-8188.
Online Travel Agent
- When you buy outbound travel services on the Internet, check whether the services are provided by licensed travel agents in Hong Kong.
- After making the payment on the Internet for outbound travel services provided by a licensed travel agent in Hong Kong, make sure you obtain a receipt with levy stamp from the licensed travel agent as soon as possible. If you do not buy from non-licensed travel agents in Hong Kong, you will not have any receipts with levy stamps and are therefore not protected by the Travel Industry Compensation Fund (including the Package Tour Accident Contingency Fund Scheme).
- Take account of the risk of buying travel services on the Internet, such as misuse or abuse of personal data, security of online payment and so on.
- Beware of any fake websites which may defraud you of your money and personal information.
Protection under the Travel Industry Compensation Fund
- The requirements in relation to the levy (consisting of the Fund levy and the Council levy) as stipulated in the Travel Agents Ordinance may be summarised as travel agents having to pay the levy in respect of every outbound fare received and outbound fares referring to:
(1) the payments (including the deposits, balance, etc) received by travel agents for providing any two or all of the following services or arrangements:
- transport from Hong Kong to any other places;
- accommodation at any places outside Hong Kong;
- activities at any places outside Hong Kong during a journey, and
(2) the following payments related to the journey: air passenger departure tax, security charges, visa application fees, travel insurance premiums, fuel surcharges, and supplements for single rooms, additional beds and breakfast, etc.
According to the requirements, travel agents need not pay the levy for travel products which are merely a single item of the above (a), (b) or (c), such as a one-day trip which begins and ends in Shenzhen, and the travellers are not protected by the Travel Industry Compensation Fund (including the Package Tour Accident Contingency Fund Scheme).
- According to the TIC’s Directive, “receipts” refer to any documents proving payment of outbound fares to members by customers. A levy equal to 0.15% of the outbound fare must be franked on all those receipts.
- Obtain the franked receipt from the travel agent as soon as practicable after you have paid the outbound fare regardless of the means and channel of payment. Check carefully whether all the details of the outbound travel products have been set out in the receipt. If you pay the outbound fare at a physical store, get the original franked receipt from the travel agent immediately after payment. If you do not pay the outbound fare at a physical store, get the franked receipt from the travel agent as soon as possible after payment.
- Outbound package tour travellers with receipts with levy stamps are protected by the Travel Industry Compensation Fund (TICF) (including the Package Tour Accident Contingency Fund Scheme). In the unfortunate case that the travel agent goes bankrupt, affected travellers are entitled to receive from the TICF an ex gratia payment of up to 90% of the outbound fare paid. Financed by the TICF, the Package Tour Accident Contingency Fund Scheme renders financial relief of up to HK$300,000 to tour accident victims and their relatives.
- Ask your family members or friends to keep all franked receipts for you before departure and bring a photocopy of the receipts with you on the tour.
- For details of the TICF, click here now.
Pay Attention to the Particulars of Your Travel Services
- Make sure you understand the services provided by the travel agent and ask for a list of such services.
- If you purchase a “travel package”, you should ask your travel agent and try to have a clear understanding of the following:
- what kinds of services (e.g. cross-boundary transport) are included in the package; and
- the terms and conditions of the package, including those for cancellation by you such as the situations in which a refund will not be offered, and the fee charged and how it is calculated as well as the refund arrangement if a Red or Black Outbound Travel Alert is in force for your destination.
Obtain information on tour activities
- Obtain detailed information on the tour activities of your package tours before signing up for the tours, and request the travel agent to clearly explain to you the content and safety of the tour activities and any other issues you need to know.
Take out Travel Insurance
- Take out comprehensive travel insurance that suits your needs after understanding the tour activities and the cover of various travel insurance policies, such as whether you will be covered if a Red or Black Outbound Travel Alert is in force. If your package tour is cancelled, try to ask your insurance company to postpone the insurance policy.
- Check whether your travel insurance policy covers all activities of the tours (including self-pay activities), and clearly understand the insurance policy.
Pay heed to Security Bureau’s outbound travel alerts
- Check whether the Security Bureau has issued any Outbound Travel Alert for your destination before firming up your travel plan to ensure personal safety.
Enquiries about Tour Cancellation and Others
- If travel agents cancel a package tour prior to its scheduled departure, they must refund the money paid by their customers in accordance with the applicable rules within three working days.
- If travel agents cancel a package tour prior to its scheduled departure, they must notify their customers of the cancellation in accordance with the following notification periods:
Destination of the package tour Notification period of tour cancellation (excluding the day of departure) Guangdong province and Macao At least one day before departure Short-haul area At least seven days before departure Long-haul area At least 14 days before departure
- If travel agents fail to notify their customers of the package tour cancellation according to the above notification periods, they must pay 15% of the tour fare but not exceeding HK$1,000 to each of their customers as compensation. For details of the rules governing the cancellation of package tours, please see Directive No. 239.
Check upon Entry Requirements of Your Destination
- Check the visa requirements of your destination with respective consulates in Hong Kong. You may also refer to the website of the Immigration Department, or call the Department on (852)2824-6111.
- For information about news of disease outbreaks, vaccinations, health advice, etc, go to the website Hong Kong Travellers’ Health Service launched by the Department of Health, or contact the Port Health Travel Health Centre on (852)2961-8840 or (852)2150-7235 for details.
Be Mindful of Data Roaming Charges
- Please click here for the points to note about data roaming charges issued by the Office of the Communications Authority.
Accredited Tour Escorts
- Tour escorts leading outbound tours must obtain a Tour Escort Pass issued by the TIC, bring their Pass along when performing their duties, and wear it on their chest when the tour group assembles for departure. For information about accredited tour escorts, go to the Outbound Tour Escort Directory.