Hong Kong to raise tour group fees

The stamp duty and charges for inbound mainland tour groups will likely be increased to finance new regulations for the travel industry.

The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau is set to establish a new independent statutory body to regulate the travel industry.

It will take over the tourism regulatory functions of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, according to a source.

The total operating costs of the new measures are expected to be more than HK$50 million a year, compared to the HK$24 million annual expenses of the council.

Once the new body is set up, the reallocation of stamp duty and charges for mainland tour groups will be subject to detailed discussion.

The bureau conducted consultations and a thorough review of the council's regulatory structure six months ago.

It reviewed the role of the council in the wake of several serious disputes involving local tour guides and mainland tourists in recent years.

The incidents were due to unacceptable behavior of the local guides.

The purpose of setting up the new body is to confer the regulatory power of the council in four main categories namely licensing, monitoring, inspecting and penalizing travel agencies that violate laws.

The bureau will draft legal regulatory powers for the new body to be submitted to the Legislative Council.

The new authority will essentially function on the current set of guidelines.

It will consist of more than 70 staff with the number of non- industry practitioners being greater than those in the industry.

But the exact ratio of industry practitioners to council committee members is still under negotiation.

However, the council will retain the power of training young talent, advertising and crisis management.

If Hongkongers are involved in accidents overseas or non- regulatory duties require to be performed in the travel industry, the government will still consider providing financial aid to the council.

Posted On : 20 December,2011