17 November 2018
Tourists wear masks as they shop in Seoul. Photo: Reuters
Tourists wear masks as they shop in Seoul. Photo: Reuters

July tour groups to S Korea likely to be called off

The majority of tour groups from Hong Kong to South Korea have been cancelled after the city’s government issued a red travel alert for the country earlier this week, Metro Daily reported Friday.

Joseph Tung Yao-chung, executive director of the Travel Industry Council (TIC), said 310 enquiries and complaints had been received since the alert, owing to an outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), was issued.

A meeting will be held on June 22 with representatives of the industry to assess the situation.

Tung said it is very likely that tour groups to South Korea scheduled for July will be cancelled, if there is no improvement.

Commenting on recent complaints about Hong Kong Express not responding to calls on its hotline, Tung said the TIC has contacted the airline.

He called for more understanding on the part of travelers given a steep increase in the number of enquiries.

Tung suggested travelers use email to contact the airline, which he believed will make an effort to respond.

Wing On Travel has also been the subject of complaints from travelers, who accused the agency of charging various handling fees before issuing refunds upon the cancellation of tour groups to South Korea.

Tung said the TIC has guidelines in place on the levying of handling fees by travel agencies, so there should be no room for any abuse.

Tracy Cheng, head of marketing at the Hong Kong office of the Korea Tourism Organisation, South Korea received 55,000 tourists from Hong Kong in June last year and 49,000 the following month.

Cheng expects these numbers to drop by as much as half in the wake of the MERS outbreak.

Tour groups to Seoul have been hit hardest, but there has been an increase in the number of enquiries about tours to more remote destinations, such as Jeju Island.

Cheng is hoping South Korea’s tourism industry will begin to recover as soon as August.

She said airlines and resorts are working hard to roll out discounted packages.

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