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Illegal tour firms face crackdown

By Jin Haixing (China Daily)

09:21, July 31, 2013

Tour agencies with one-day packages will have to log on through an electronic code with bus operators, according to a plan unveiled last week by the Beijing Commission of Tourism Development.

The move targets unqualified tour companies.

Tour guides and bus drivers have to keep the itinerary and special code for inspection during the tour. By scanning the code, the inspectors can check tour information and verify whether the agency is legal.

The practice will be applied to all travel agencies, said Yu Debin, deputy head of the Beijing Commission of Tourism Development. He didn't say when the plan will take effect.

One-day tour operators are becoming increasingly popular. However, many of them are illegal as more established companies do not focus too much on the one-day market.

These illegal tour agencies forge documents and sign a printed contract with legal agencies to rent tour buses.

The government measures to stop the illegal agencies from operating will include checks at scenic spots, said Yu.

In early July, an online video sparked outrage after its showed a guide threatening tourists with a knife and abusive language because they did not buy enough from shops that he had taken them to.

It seemed the guide had an arrangement with the shopkeepers that he would deliver a quota of tourists to them per day in exchange for cash. He was later detained by police and found to be unlicensed.

However, there are still many private travel agencies which give out leaflets advertising cheap one-day tours.

For example, the price of the Great Wall Trip offered by Beijing Hub of Tour Dispatch, a State-owned travel agency, is 180 yuan ($29) per person. However, an agency named Golden Trip is advertising the same trip for 80 yuan.

"We have seen some really cheap offers arranged by Chinese agencies, but we dare not take the chance since we cannot speak Chinese," said Francois Malbranque, an undergraduate from France, who visited Tian'anmen Square with friends last week.

The government should improve services for individual tourists and it should authorize one-day-tour permits for a certain number of travel agencies to ensure quality, said Zhang Hui, a tourism management professor at Beijing Jiaotong University.

Chen Xu, a researcher from China Tourism Academy, said the government should publicize legal travel agencies and tell tourists how to distinguish legal agencies from illegal ones.

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