Highlights of the Travel Agents Ordinance (TAO)
|Definition of "Travel Agent"|
|Appointment of the Registrar of Travel Agents|
|Advisory Committee on Travel Agents|
|Restriction on operating as a travel agent|
|Refusal of licence|
|Effect and duration of licence|
|Change of ownership or control|
|Suspension and revocation of licence|
|Investigation by the Registrar|
|Travel Industry Compensation Fund|
Under the TAO, a travel agent can be classified as an outbound travel agent or an inbound travel agent:
Section 4 of the TAO defines an outbound travel agent as a person who carries on the business in Hong Kong of obtaining for another person-
Section 4A of the TAO defines an inbound travel agent as a person who carries on the business in Hong Kong of obtaining for a visitor to Hong Kong-
Section 5 provides for the appointment by the Chief Executive of the Registrar of Travel Agents (the Registrar).
Section 7 provides for the establishment of the Advisory Committee on Travel Agents (ACTA), its composition and the appointment of its chairman and members.
Section 8 provides that the function of the ACTA is to advise the Chief Executive on such matters relating to the administration of the TAO or to be in the interests of travel agents and persons using the services of travel agents.
Section 9 prohibits any person to carry on business as a travel agent-
Section 13 stipulates that the licence should be in a prescribed form, requires a licensee to pay a prescribed fee, empowers the grant of a licence valid for a period of up to 12 months, and enables the authorization of the person named in the licence to carry on business as a travel agent at any place specified in that licence.
Section 16 stipulates that any change in the ownership or control of a travel agent requires the prior approval of the Registrar of Travel Agents in writing.
Section 19 empowers the Registrar of Travel Agents to suspend or revoke a licence if-
Section 21 empowers the Registrar to conduct investigations into the business of a travel agent if he suspects it to be carried on contrary to public interest.
Section 32A to 32G provide for the establishment of the Travel Industry Compensation Fund (TICF) and the TICF Management Board, set out the Board's composition and the appointment of its chairman and members, and delineate its functions and powers. Of particular note are the provisions for the Board's authority to make ex gratia payments from the TICF (section 32E) to outbound travellers and to make rules (section 32G) in respect of such payments.
Sections 32H and 32I provide for contribution by travel agents of levies to the Travel Industry Compensation Fund and the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong.
The Travel Industry Compensation Fund levy has been suspended with effect from 3 July 2009 . Starting from the same day, travel agents are only required to contribute 0.15% of every outbound fare to the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong as Council levy.
Section 48 sets out the offences in contravention of the various provisions of the TAO and the maximum pentitleies for such offences. For example, any person who contravenes section 9 is liable on conviction upon indictment to a fine of $100,000 and to imprisonment for 2 years or on summary conviction to a fine of $10,000 and to imprisonment for 6 months.
The above is only intended as a guide to some of the provisions of the Travel Agents Ordinance and should not be taken as an authoritative or definitive interpretation of the Ordinance. Viewers should refer to the full text of the Ordinance at the Department of Justice's Bilingual Laws Information System on Internet homepage at https://www.elegislation.gov.hk if they wish to acquaint themselves with its original version