Supreme bust among 36 agency closures

Top News | Sophie Hui 21 May 2020

Some 1,100 holidaymakers have been left out of pocket after Supreme Holidays shuttered, joining 35 other tour agencies that have folded amid the pandemic.

Those customers paid around HK$1.2 million in total to the agency, Travel Industry Council executive director Alice Chan Cheung Lok-yee said yesterday.

Since January, 36 travel agencies have closed shop - with about 3,000 customers in eight of these firms, including Supreme Holidays, losing around HK$10 million, Chan said.

"It is believed that the anti-fugitive bill protests last year and the pandemic this year are the main reasons causing those travel agencies to close down," she said.

Supreme Holidays, which has three branches in Mong Kok, Tuen Mun and Tsuen Wan, had its license revoked on Monday.

The company mainly focused on short-haul trips to the mainland, Chan said.

Since late January, all inbound and outbound tours from the mainland have been halted "and so many tours have been canceled," she said.

"After the tours were canceled, Supreme Holidays could not refund the fares to the customers since there were no more [funds channeling into the agency]," Chan said.

"So the Travel Agents Registry revoked its license."

It is understood that most of the affected customers have receipts with levy stamps from the travel agency, which means they can apply for the ex gratia payment from the travel industry compensation fund management board, Chan added.

Under the fund, travelers may claim up to 90 percent of the outbound fare lost if a licensed travel agency shutters.

The agency's Mong Kok branch was still open yesterday, with some customers asking for their original receipts.

A lone staff member told them that they could apply for the compensation fund but the wait to get their money back may take up to two years since many other agencies have closed.

Tourism industry veterans, meanwhile, said the pandemic has already had a worse impact than SARS in 2003.

A coach driver said it has been a while since he has no income as there have been no inbound tours.

Agencies cannot even organize local tours due to social distancing rules, he added.

The Tourism Board said on Friday that only 4,100 travelers visited Hong Kong in April due to stringent immigration controls and quarantine measures, a year-on-year decline of almost 100 percent.

"In spite of signs of the Covid-19 pandemic abating in Hong Kong, the resumption of promotions in source markets will depend on the recovery status in different markets," the board said.

sophie.hui@singtaonewscorp.com

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