New customs limit fails to dampen shopping tourism

07:58, December 07, 2010      

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The outbound tourism sector in Guangdong province is enjoying a busy winter season but tourists may have to shorten their shopping lists due to tougher customs regulations.

Although the Christmas-New Year shopping bargains available in overseas destinations are still attracting Chinese tourists, holidaymakers will have to adjust to tighter limits imposed by customs this year.

Chinese customs authorities have reinstated the 5,000-yuan ($750) limit for customs duty exemption and stepped up inspections against smuggling at some checkpoints, such as those in the Guangdong cities of Shenzhen and Zhuhai, which border Hong Kong and Macao respectively.

Although these changes have not affected this season's bookings for Hong Kong, they will curb the trend for shopping overseas in the long run, Li Nianyang, GZL International Travel Service's general manager for Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, said in earlier reports by Guangzhou-based Nanfang Daily.

However, thanks to the geographical proximity with Macao and Hong Kong and the relatively low transport costs, tourists from Guangdong can make multiple trips to take advantage of the significant bargains and to meet the customs limit, said Kuang Yingjun, a spokeswoman for CITS Guangdong Co Ltd, a major travel agent in the southern province.

"They will be more sensible and plan more beforehand to avoid impulse buying," Kuang said, adding that CITS Guangdong will organize Hong Kong trips for more than 7,000 tourists this month.

Bookings for all overseas destinations have grown by more than 30 percent year-on-year for this season at CITS Guangdong, said Cao Peng, general manager of the outbound service department.

Routes to Europe, the United States, Japan and South Korea, which feature skiing, hot springs and shopping, are popular, and those to Australia and New Zealand are also attracting people who want to enjoy sunshine and comfortable weather. Cao said that white-collar workers taking their annual leave have been a major source of clients.

Due to discounts on air tickets, hotels and local travel services, tourists who plan a trip to Europe or the US will save about 2,000 yuan compared to the price last winter, Cao said.

The comparatively weak US dollar means that the cost of a trip to the US in the Chinese New Year holidays has risen by only 10 percent over charges in non-holiday periods, making that route a bargain compared to other overseas destinations.

Despite the heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula, bookings for trips to South Korea have risen by 35 percent this season. By the end of November 500 people had booked with CITS Guangdong to travel to South Korea this month, said Kuang.

Bookings at Guangdong China Travel Service for trips to Australia have increased this season and the company will add three charter flights to Japan, with prices for both destinations rising from last year, said Tu Yan, from the company's marketing department.



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