Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong (TIC) decided on Saturday to terminate the membership of a local travel agency for unscrupulous operation, which may have caused the death of a mainland tourist in May.
This is the heaviest penalty that the council has ever imposed on any member agency. The penalty also means the travel agency could lose its business license.
The Compliance Committee of the TIC held a panel meeting on Saturday to deliberate the incident, in which a mainland tourist died of a heart attack after arguing with an unlicensed tour guide, who allegedly refused to let him leave a jewellery shop.
The panel meeting unanimously decided to impose a fine of 7,000 HK dollars to and terminate the membership of Win's Travel Agency Limited. The penalty is subject to the formal endorsement by a full meeting of the Compliance Committee next Monday in accordance with established procedures.
The agency may file an appeal with the TIC's Appeal Board within 14 days after receiving the notification of the penalty, and its TIC membership will remain valid pending the appeal.
The agency failed to fulfill its duty to provide good service to its clients, and its "unacceptable" conduct has gravely damaged the reputation and image of Hong Kong tourism, said Joseph Tung, the executive director of the council.
Tung said, in a report submitted to the council on Thursday, the travel agency admitted that it was aware that the tour guide was using another guide's license.
The council found during its investigation that Win's Travel Agency is suspected of using and producing false documents, the case will be referred to the police for follow-up action.
Following the incident, the council tightened its rules on tour guides and travel agencies. The Hong Kong Tourism Board also urged mainland visitors to use quality operators.