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Interview: Thailand and China to cooperate in curbing fraudulent practices in tourism

By Surasak Tumcharoen (Xinhua)

18:17, June 04, 2013

BANGKOK, June 4 (Xinhua) -- Thailand and China will join hands to curb fraudulent practices by tour operators that could victimize unsuspecting Chinese visitors to Thailand, Thai Tourism & Sports Minister Somsak Purisrisak said on Tuesday.

The Thai tourism minister will leave for Beijing on June 19 to meet with his Chinese counterpart and discuss plans to keep in check tour agencies that have reportedly engaged in the so-called "zero-dollar tour".

Such tours have appeared to be cheap but could turn out to be more expensive, since the Chinese tourists would be compelled to pay highly-overcharged pieces for jewelry, leather goods and other products, or charged for their lunches or dinners in restaurants in Thailand.

"The Chinese victims of the zero-dollar tour rackets were reportedly compelled to buy highly-overcharged items and given very low-quality service and accommodation during their stay in Thailand in exchange for cheap tour packages offered by their tour agents," Somsak said.

He said during his visit to Beijing, he will discuss with Chinese tourism authorities on the steps that the two countries can adopt in order to curb this fraudulent promotional come-on that prey on Chinese tourists and at the same time tarnish the reputation of the host country.

Somsak said he hopes to sign an agreement on Thai-Chinese cooperation on tourism issues that could include imposing sanctions against fraudulent practices by tour operators, particularly the "zero-dollar tour" scam.

Primarily, however, Somsak said, his mission is to call on Chinese authorities to help Thailand in luring high-end Chinese tourists to visit Thailand. Thailand is targeting as many as 25 million foreign visitors this year, some three million more than the 22 million who have visited Thailand last year.

With China's robust economy and the emergence of a strong middle class, more and more affluent Chinese nationals are now able to travel abroad and Thailand would like to have a lion's share of this bonanza, Somsak said.

Somsak said that similar promotional tour campaigns will also be launched in Eastern European countries and India to attract high-end tourist customers to this country, which plans to make as much as 55 billion U.S. dollars in tourism-related earnings throughout this year.

According to Somsak, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had instructed him to take a closer look on the eco-tourism program in the Maldives, which emphasizes clean, beautiful and safe environment as their major come-on for foreign visitors. The lady prime minister recently returned from a state visit to The Maldives.

Somsak said several tropical islands in the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea, such as Angthong archipelago off Surat Thani province and Chang Island off Trat province, are now being developed as eco-tourism sites in compliance with the instruction of the prime minister.

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