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China mulls tourism law to eradicate six loopholes

(People's Daily Online)

08:46, September 14, 2012

China mulls tourism law to eradicate six loopholes.(People's Daily Overseas Edition)

China is formulating its first national tourism law, which will eradicate six loopholes that concern consumers.

Here are loopholes existing in China's tourism industry and solutions given by the new tourism law.

1) Zero- or negative-fare tours

Phenomenon: "Zero- or negative-fare tours" refer to tourism products sold by travel agencies at or below cost in order to lure tourists. Accommodations and transportation expenses at travel destinations are actually covered by the profits travel agencies make from persuading or even forcing tourists to buy particular goods and participate in various activities at their own expense.

Case: Twelve tourists from Nanjing embarked on a five-day package tour to Hong Kong and Macao on July 18, 2010. During their short stay in Zhuhai after the main part of the package tour was finished, a local tourist guide changed their travel destination in the city from a department store to a jewelry store without prior notice, and tried to persuade them to buy cigarettes and jewelry there. The tourists refused and entered an hour-long bitter quarrel with the guide, who even threatened to kick all tourists off the bus.

Draft tourism law: Travel agencies shall not attract, organize, or receive tourists below cost. Package tours shall not involve designated shopping places or forced and semi-forced purchasing. Travel agencies shall not arrange any tourism activity that charges additional fees, and shall clearly state the prices for tour guide services in package tour contracts. A package tour contract must include an itinerary, detailed schedule for planned activities, free time, travel expenses, and payment methods. Travel agencies may not arrange paid activities or charge additional fees beyond package tour contracts.

2) Forced purchasing

Phenomenon: Forced purchasing is the practice of travel agencies forcing tourists to purchase goods in any form. For example, certain travel agents earn kickbacks by taking tourists to additional scenic spots and shopping places at their own expense.

Case: Certain Internet users said that a tourist guide surnamed Chen, who claimed to be one of the top 10 guides in Chengdu, added five additional shopping places, including a crystal store, which each required a 50-mintue stay, to a package tour without discussing it with tourists. Before their tour bus entered the Huanglong Scenic Resort, Chen intimidated tourists into buying the "Hongjingtian" oral solution at 100 yuan per box by exemplifying that severe altitude sickness might occur if they did not drink the oral solution. In fact, the oral solution is only priced at 48 yuan per box in pharmacies across Chengdu.

Draft tourism law: Tourism administrations shall command travel agencies to rectify the illegal practices of arranging for or forcing tourists to buy goods at designated stores and adding additional paid tourism activities, confiscate their illegal income, and impose a fine between 50,000 yuan and 200,000 yuan. First-time offenses will lead to suspension of the travel agencies involved, and repeat offenses will lead to the revocation of the business licenses of the travel agencies involved as well as the professional licenses of the tourist guides and other personnel involved.

3) Travel agencies breach contracts

Phenomenon: Certain travel agencies provide lower-than-agreed service quality or refuse to fulfill their contractual obligations, which damages tourists' rights and interests.

Case: A tourist and his family joined a double-bed double-boat 10-day tour of Qingdao, Dalian, Lvshun, Penglai, Yantai, Weihai and Laoshan organized by an international travel agency. Then, the tourists lodged a complaint against the travel agency, saying that the travel agency did not tell them ahead of time that the tour group was formed in the destination of the tour; the travel agency did not assign a tour guide for the group and therefore they had no one to communicate with and many problems met by them could not be solved in time; the boarding standard did not reach the two-star hotel standard written in the contract; the travel agency promised them the third-class cabin (double-decker room of between 8 and 12 passengers) of the boat travelling from Dalian to Yantai, but actually there were about 40 people in a room.

Draft tourism law: If a travel agency changes or reduces its tour, entertainment or service items, it must carry out remedial measures or properly pay the tourists for reducing the items. If a travel agency refuses to execute the contract without a just cause, it should compensate for the tourists' losses, and if it caused severe consequences, such as the physical injury and tourists being trapped in the destination, the travel agency should also pay a penalty higher than the tourism price but lower than three times of the price. If a travel agency or tour guide refuses to execute the contract, tourism administration authorities would order the agency or guide to correct the mistake. If it is a travel agency, it will be fined between 50,000 and 200,000 yuan and its business will be suspended for adjustments. If it is a tour guide, the guide will be fined between 10,000 and 50,000 yuan and the guide's tour guide certificate will be suspended for between one and three months. If a travel agency or tour guide trapped its tourists in the destination, the business license of the agency or the tour guide certificate of the tour guide will be evoked.

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