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Despite the competition from travel sites, Wayne Yiu Si-wing, the legislator representing the tourism functional constituency, says traditional agencies still have their advantages in providing professional advice and reservation services for those who are unfamiliar with the internet.

However, he acknowledges that travel sites can fulfill individual needs as they can serve as platforms collating and comparing information such as flight tickets, hotel or hostel reservations and other transportation needs provided by different suppliers.

But he remains concerned about the potential safety issues arising from cases like Mandy’s. Yiu explains that while there are regulations governing intermediary agencies that are selling travel “products”, there is a grey area when it comes to regulating the “referral” of services.

Although it is illegal to provide tour guide services to visitors without the official Tour Guide Pass, participants in a tour could claim they were friends of the guide to avoid legal repercussions. Yiu says current laws are hard to implement and if there was an accident, nobody would take responsibility.

The Consumer Council says current regulations on the trade of goods and services only regulate the trading of safe and accurately represented goods and services between manufacturers and retailers. In a written reply to Varsity, the council said it was uncertain whether transactions under the sharing economy model had the same protections.

Whether you call it sharing economy, collaborative consumption or access economy, the world is seeing a rapid growth in new business models based on putting suppliers in direct contact with consumers and cutting out traditional intermediaries. This is being driven by the popularity of smartphones, social media and the rollout of new apps.

Legislator Wayne Yiu, who represents the travel industry, says his constituents will need to transform if they are to survive. They are not the only ones – the new business models are changing the way people do business and the way they consume. Not only do the industries that are under threat need to respond, but regulatory authorities and governments also need to rethink the existing systems.

Edited by Sherry Tsui