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Travel agency probed over sex show expose

By Liu Sheng (Global Times)

10:20, March 18, 2013

The Shanghai municipal tourism bureau and the city's cultural law enforcement regulator have opened an investigation into a local travel agency suspected of pressuring its clients to attend an overpriced sex show during a tour of Thailand, the local tourism bureau confirmed Monday.

The investigation kicked off after an expos in the Shanghai-based Metro Express uncovered a possible scam that forced tourists to shell out extra money for activities not promoted as part of the tour package.

Last month, a Metro Express reporter disguised as a tourist paid 3,560 yuan ($572) for a six-day package tour to Thailand. But once in the country, the local tour guide asked all members to pay an additional 700 yuan to attend two performances, explaining that his company required them to go, according to the newspaper's report. Most of the tour group agreed to pay the extra money after the guide continued to pressure them.

Thai authorities have taken measures to stop this practice, including requiring sex show organizers to have attendees fill out a form that states they came to the performance willingly. However, when the guide asked the tour group members to sign the form, he deliberately folded it to hide the part where tourists could check whether they were forced to pay for the performances, according to the report.

Both performances took place at night and contained pornographic content. Most of the audience was composed of Chinese tourists on package tours, the report said.

"Under these circumstances, tourists can choose to call local police, or turn to the Chinese embassy for help, or call our supervision department," said Yang Fan, director of the marketing department of the Shanghai Tourism Administration.

Last year, the number of Chinese tourists to the Thailand rocketed from 1.7 million to 2.7 million. It is expected to increase to 3.5 million this year, according to the spokesperson for the Tourism Authority of Thailand's Shanghai Office.

The spokesperson told local media that the agency regretted the tourists' experience, but acknowledged that authorities in Thailand have been fighting these practices for years.

Yang said there are still many good tour packages to Thailand from reputable agencies. He advised tourists to be skeptical about excessively cheap packages.

Under Chinese regulations, travel agencies and tour guides cannot arrange for tourists to take part in activities involving pornography, gambling, or drug use.

Furthermore, they are not allowed to change the tour's itinerary without their clients' consent. If they violate these regulations, both the agency and the guide can be fined or lose their licenses.

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