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Can package tours be free from worry?

By Cui Peng and Deng Yu (People's Daily)

08:47, May 21, 2012

Edited and translated by People's Daily Online

As tourism's high season is coming, many tourists are now considering taking package tours organized by travel agencies. However, some people are worried about the quality of package tour services. Other concerns include the risk of a seemingly cost-effective package tour turning into a "terrible journey of misery," and the way travel agencies deal with customer complaints.

Improper practices by travel agencies damage tourists’ interests

Fierce completion among domestic travel agencies has led to a vicious price war. Their scheme of slashing nominal costs, charging tourists "zero" or even "negative" reception fee, and inducing or forcing tourists to buy local products has been under fire.

Group-buying websites are becoming increasingly popular among consumers as they offer highly discounted products in a convenient way, but many consumption traps have appeared at the same time.

According to the China National Tourism Administration, a group-buying site once offered a 2,760-yuan five-day-and-four-night three-star VIP couple’s tour to Hainan and travel agency’s liability insurance worth 100,000 yuan at a staggering low price of 228 yuan for the website and 380 yuan for the travel agency.

However, an investigation by a tourism service quality supervision agency found that the travel agency had never authorized other organizations to sell this tourism product. The group-buying site was conducting tourism business without a license, and involved charging tourists "zero" or even "negative" reception fee.

Sui Chaohui, a senior manager at CYTS’ customer service center, said that travel agencies that tried to attract tourists by charging them "zero" or even "negative" reception fee often use other methods to reap profits. Forcing tourists to buy products they recommend is a common method. If tourists refuse to buy those products, the travel agencies may use abusive words or force, or even abandon tourists to get their way.

"Shrunk" packages tours are common these days.

Tourists should be more rational in face of disputes

It should be noted that travel agencies are not to blame for all disputes with tourists, and are not fully liable for consequences caused by force majeure events.

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