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LCQ7: Standard and guidelines for organising study tours

     Following is a question by the Hon Yiu Si-wing and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (July 3):


     It is learnt that the number of study tours organised by organisations such as travel agents, educational bodies, youth centres, schools, etc., has been on the rise in recent years, but the quality of such study tours varies. In addition, participants of outbound tours which are not organised by licensed travel agents are not protected by the Travel Industry Compensation Fund and the Package Tour Accident Contingency Fund Scheme. Some parents have relayed that the requirements under the Guidelines on Study Tours Outside the HKSAR (Guidelines) of the Education Bureau are less stringent than those under the Code of Business Practice on Study Tours (Code) of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, and the protection for students joining study tours is inadequate. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that the Code requires travel agents, when organising studying tours, to assign at least one tour-accompanying helper who holds a valid Tour Escort Pass (i.e. one who has completed the Certificate Course for Outbound Tour Escorts and passed the relevant examination) to each study tour, whereas the Guidelines only require that "all escorts in the study tour should have experience in leading students to take part in outdoor activities or overseas visits", whether the Education Bureau will raise the professional requirements for study tour escorts to the same level as those set by the Code; if so, of the specific arrangements; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) as the Guidelines require that "each participant of the study tour should prepare suitable travel and medical insurance" but they have not specified what a "suitable" insurance is, whether the authorities will learn a lesson from the hot-air balloon explosion accident in Egypt and formulate uniform standards and guidelines on travel insurance for study tours; if so, of the specific arrangements; if not, the reasons for that;

(c) whether it has assessed if students concerned will have adequate protection in the event that the study tours organised by local organisations (which are not licensed travel agents) or directly by non-local receiving organisations are involved in disputes or accidents; if it has, of the assessment outcome; if not, the reasons for that; and

(d) whether the authorities will formulate uniform standards on the quality of receiving organisations at destinations of study tours, accommodation and transport arrangements, etc., so as to ensure that study tours are of good quality and participants are safe; if so, of the specific arrangements; if not, the reasons for that?


(a) Schools organise study tours to provide students with more learning activities outside classroom in light of their needs. The mode of organising study tours takes various forms including commissioning to travel agents which is more popular among schools, collaborating with other organisations and organising by schools themselves. According to the Guidelines on Study Tours Outside the HKSAR (Guidelines), irrespective of the mode of organising study tours, schools should play the role of organisers responsible for supervision and planning of the tours. School personnel should also be appointed to escort participating students throughout the tours. Each tour should be led by at least two escorts having experiences in leading students to take part in outdoor activities or overseas visits, with at least one of them being a teacher of the school. Other than the capabilities to supervise and take care of students, the escorts should have received first aid training, be well informed of the health conditions of the participants and report regularly to the school.

     Given the different job nature and clientele between escorts of study tours and professional escorts of travel agents, and that the Guidelines have specified the requirements of escorts concerned based on the nature of study tours, the Education Bureau (EDB) considers it not necessary to request the escorts of study tours to possess Travel Escort Passes issued by the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong (TIC).

     The EDB has consulted major stakeholders and the TIC in revising the Guidelines. The Guidelines have also included a link to the TIC's website for information on study tour operators for schools' reference. The EDB will continue to work closely with the TIC to review the Guidelines as appropriate.

(b) Students of public sector schools are covered by insurance arranged by the EDB (Note) when participating in activities including study tours organised by schools. Under the Guidelines, schools are advised to remind parents/students to arrange comprehensive personal travel insurance as deemed necessary for further protection taking into consideration the nature and details of the activities concerned.

(c) Please refer to (b) above for the insurance coverage for students participating in school activities. We have also issued the School Administration Guide to remind schools to comply with the related requirements including specifying the details of the services required and safeguard clauses, etc. in the tender documents.

(d) Schools, having taken into account students' needs and views of major stakeholders, will give due consideration to the quality of the host organisations, accommodation to be provided and transportation arrangements, etc. in arranging study tours.  Besides, schools have to include clear specifications of the services in the tender documents to protect the participating students and the schools themselves being the organisers in accordance with the Guidelines on Tendering and Purchasing Procedures in Schools when organising study tours through procurement of services.  

     Under the Travel Agents Ordinance (Cap 218), any organisation commissioned by schools to organise study tours including provision of transportation and accommodation arrangements, etc. for commercial gain must be a travel agent holding a valid licence.

Note: The insurance of Government school students participating in school activities is covered by the Government while students in aided and caput schools by the Block Insurance Policy.

Ends/Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Issued at HKT 12:42


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