The Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong (TIC) will adopt its outbound committee’s proposal to lift restrictions on partners as well as packages and tour-related gifts that agents are allowed to offer with effect from March 2017, a pro-competition move that many in the trade are eagerly anticipating.
Agents told TTG Asia that the unpopular restrictions had stifled market potential over the years.
Morning Star Travel Service, director of marketing, Wilson Yeung, said: “In the past, we (had to stick to a) list of working partners including banks and tourism bureaus. Therefore, it was typical for all to offer, for instance, specific souvenirs from the tourism bureau to our clients.”
Added Wing On Travel, director and CEO, Lanny Leung: “The restrictions undermined our competitive power to combat OTAs as our resources couldn’t be fully utilised. For example, we couldn’t offer chauffeur transfers by Mercedes-Benz but only freebies like calendars and travel bags.”
With the lifting of these limitations, Leung, who intends to expand the marketing budget to achieve double-digit growth in online/offline platforms, expects the local trade would “flourish”.
For Yeung, who likewise is intending to raise his marketing budget this year, consumers also win as the change could unbridle promotional ideas and result in a healthy level of competition among agents. “Consumers will be the winners as agents are (free to go with their own ideas) and provide more (varied) offers to lure business.”
TIC executive director Joseph Tung added that members will now be able to compete with new rivals such as OTAs through flexible business tactics in addition to their existing service standards.