Working in Market - Hong Kong
See how to work in Hong Kong, one of Tourism Australia's key markets, and learn key insights into the various travel distribution channels.
The Travel Industry Authority (TIA) established under the Travel Industry Ordinance in January 2020, will take over the functions of licensing and regulating the tourism trade from the Travel Agents Registry and the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, as well as the administration of the Travel Industry Compensation Fund. A comprehensive licensing regime for travel agents, tourist guides, and tour escorts would be put in place to regulate Hong Kong’s travel industry in a holistic manner, with a view to enhancing the quality and promoting a healthy long-term development of the industry. The TIA will run on a self-financing basis in the long run, and major sources of revenue are levies on outbound fares received by travel agents, license fees, and registration fee on inbound tour groups from the China Mainland. TIA focus is to ‘Develop Hong Kong into a world-class premier tourism destination’.
Travel Industry Council new role is to enhance the service and professionalism of the travel trade and strengthen manpower training. There are 1,667 travel agents as at 17 November 2021. Any travel agent which does not have a Travel Agent’s License is not allowed to carry on outbound and inbound travel business. 1,461 travel agents’ nature of business is outbound and group under various business classification, such as 1,071 travel agents handles air-plus-hotel package, 1013 travel agents under corporate and business travel, 1224 travel agents under ticketing retail and 991 travel agents under package tour retail. For package tour (wholesale / tour operator) count is 635 and ticketing wholesale count is 387.
Travel Industry Council has 8 association members, and key association members dealing with outbound business are “Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents (HATA), The Federation of Hong Kong Chinese Travel Agents (FHCTA), International Chinese Tourist Association (ICTA), Society of IATA Passenger Agents (SIPA) and Hong Kong Outbound Tour Operators’ Association (OTOA).
Wholesalers/ Large Agents
- Airline’s consortium is still playing a vital role in the ticketing wholesale business sector as credit offering is extended to small retail agency within their distribution network. Due to tough business environment over the last two years, major corporate merger and acquisitions happened and the biggest merge in the market is Corporate Travel Management which now owns two renounced brand Westminster Travel and Lotus Tours.
- Jetour Holidays, Travel Circle International Service (trading as Kuoni) and Charming Holidays are the key wholesalers for group travel which offer programs to Australia. To ensure differentiation to major retail agents, this group of wholesalers promote niche and diverse products. Their business model also operates directly to consumers and had developed their own consumer brand and positioning to capture their market share. Jetour Holidays had gone through major staff turnover, while Travel Circle International Service and Charming Holidays key contacts stay put.
- Due to long border closure since March 2020 and strict social distancing policy, most renounced retail agents ran their ‘retail goods’ online platform, instead of selling tour products, the focus shift to import seasonal consumer durable and eatable items, like fruits, hairy crab, wagyu beef etc.
- To maintain a very minimal size operations as border re-opening date are uncertain, retail agency has cut-back staff headcount and working hours, closed retail branch offices once the rental contract expired, aim to maintain sound and healthy financial back-up for swift recovery, key management and product team are in all in place and remain unchanged.
- Hong Kong Tourism Board boost domestic tourism and started ‘Holiday at Home’ to create positive atmosphere in Hong Kong and encourage consumption. Major retail agency can operate one day tour to outlying island, runs DIY program and visit Hong Kong local attractions.
- Strong committed partners like Wing On, EGL Tours, Miramar Travel, Travel Expert Group are still active running staycation, flycation, seacation and one day tour packages.
- At Global Summit event on November 16, we had 79 agents participated, support from OTA, corporate, MICE and luxury segments. Apart from our Key Distribution Partners list, also include Connexus Travel, Hutchison Travel Limited, Hong Kong Four Seas, Intriq Journey, Jebsen Holiday, Journeys By Chance, Luxe Travel, Nan Hwa, Premium Holidays, The Events Team and Towa Tours.
- The Aussie Specialist Program (ASP) is the primary platform for Tourism Australia to train and develop front line travel sellers to best sell Australia.
- As November 2021, there were 941 enrolled and qualified 921 Aussie Specialists in Hong Kong.
- Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) active in the market are Klook, KK Day, Kayak.com, Trip.com, Expedia.com
- Staycation hotel package, local experiences package with a new trend on spa and wellness program.
Inbound Tour Operators
- ITOs handle all group business from Hong Kong Australia and play a key role in developing new itineraries and products for the Hong Kong market.
- Below are the key ITOs contact servicing the market.
- Experience Tours Australia (ETA)
- Australian Travel Management (ATM)
- Australia and Beyond Holidays (AABH)
- Blue Travel Pty Ltd
- E-tours Australia
- Jade Express
- Miramar Travel Australia Pty Ltd
- Western Safari
- Wing On Tours
- Per Association of National Tourist Office Representatives (Hong Kong), ANTOR (HK) has 14 existing members and non-Hong Kong based members are Spain, Finland and Britain.
- Study tour groups and incentive groups planning, and enquiries are still active during lockdowns, and generated leads for groups in 2023 and 2024.
- New practise over the pandemic is dining habit, tends to eat with only friends and relatives instead with stranger, so small group preferred. Tailor-made and small group segment becomes in trend which applied to transport, itinerary and accommodation.
- Be inspired into great nature with the feeling of being ‘safe’ in open space, ‘healthy’ doing the walks in the outlying islands, for younger segment, wild camps in rural area, enjoying great nature – like star gazing.
- For executives and skilled labour (especially those under health facility), their eagerness to travel out from Hong Kong is very prominent, as during the lockdown, most of them had been working from home and under immerse pressure (heavy workload with less support), so whatever is available for them to pick become ‘hot’. For instance, the return of cruise package in July 2021, sold out for the first 2 sails within a second. And almost full house over all weekend sails.
- Early retirement and migration trend in market. Major migration countries which Hong Kong people considered are United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Malaysia and Taiwan, destination offering favourite policy or convenience.
- With all the COVID-test required, general trade insights expect longer duration holiday trend as extra travelling miscellaneous cost is one implication and shall avoid destination with high COVID case once border reopen and no quarantine restriction applied upon return.
- Greater Bay Area is the region where HKSAR and Chinese government pushed and build into an integrated economic and business hub. Link the cities of Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Zhongshan, Dongguan, Huizhou, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing into one big powerhouse region.
- In the last 18 months’ only 2 major agents are closed. They are Wincastle Travel handling mainly FIT business and Citizen Thunderbird Travel Limited airline consortiums.
Planning and purchasing travel
- The most common Australian travel package is seven to eight days through Eastern Australia for group travel, and mono three to five night trips for the FIT market. Australia is considered a popular Western destination in Hong Kong and attracts repeat visitation.
- Competitive ticket-only promotion drive a new segment for Australia on conversion ahead of destination awareness and detailed itinerary planning.
- Value-add offers are key drivers, mature frequent travellers are prepared to spend more for higher quality products and services, such as five-star hotels or a business class upgrade with a competitive price.
- Weekends combined with public holiday are the most demand travel pattern, Hong Kong consumers tend to take frequent short breaks instead of a long break holiday.
- Printed materials such as guide books for destination information are still popular but there is a trend towards destination apps and electronic guidebooks.
- Caused by the slow economic development, at one end tourists are seeking for comfort/luxury travel products, at the other are people looking for thrills/budget travel.
Planning a visit to market
- Commuting within Hong Kong is very convenient via Mass Transit Railway or taxi, and preferred appointments normally starts at 10am as most of them aren’t early starter but can go late at office with last appointment finished at 6pm. Within Hong Kong Island office location, can allow 30 minutes’ travelling time in-between appointments, but if required to travel from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon Peninsula, then at least 45 minutes’ travelling time is preferred, especially over rush hour schedule (ie. 12 to 2pm lunch hour and 4pm). Most travel agents’ offices are in Kwun Tong, Lai Chi Kwok and Tsuen Wan area.
- As the turnover rate for retail agency frontline staff is high, it is worthwhile for Australian products to arrange in-house training for committed travel agent partners on sales calls. Highlight your competitive edge and point of difference. For group retail agent, frontline retail staff is keen to learn of products which they can sell ‘optional’ experiences or attraction at the spot. Value-add or competitive pricing offers during the low season travel period from March to June are useful to trigger tactical campaign with travel agent partners. As March to June is the period within the whole calendar year with less demand.
- The best time for sales calls targeting low season business is after Chinese New Year holiday. To capture high season business and have products included in itineraries, visit the market after Easter holiday for July and August high travel season, visit the market in September for Christmas and New Year high travel season.
- For more general information on sales calls and planning a visit to market, you can refer to ATEC’s Tourism Export Toolkit.
Key Distribution Partners
Tourism Australia is a partnership marketing organisation and works closely with airlines and travel companies on cooperative marketing to drive conversion in all priority markets.
These targeted travel companies, including wholesalers, retail and online travel agencies, form Tourism Australia’s Key Distribution Partner (KDP) program with the intention to increase total booking value of visitors to Australia.
Each KDP is selected based on the fit with Tourism Australia’s market strategy, a shared target customer profile, shared funding of marketing activity, a commitment to training their frontline sales team through the Aussie Specialist Program and a commitment to selling quality Australian product and experiences.
Below is a selection of Key Distribution Partners that Tourism Australia is partnering with from Hong Kong.
Where to find more information
Tourism Australia’s activities in Hong Kong are managed from team Hong Kong with office located at the Australian Consulate-General office. Room 2405, 24/F Harbour Centre, 25 Harbour Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong.
Australia State and Territory Organisation operating in Hong Kong include Destination NSW, Tourism NT, Tourism Tasmania and Tourism Western Australia.
- An overview on the travel distribution system
- A quick reference on key booking and travel periods for markets
- Hong Kong Market Brief published by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade at: www.dfat.gov.au/geo/hong-kong
- For additional statistical reports refer to the ABS and TRA websites, www.abs.gov.au and www.tra.gov.au