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It's so easy to be a VIP

SOME individuals and travel agencies have worked out their guanxi and are providing World Expo VIP tours that are not supposed to be for sale.

There are two types of VIP offers - a one-day trip including four to six pavilions, or entrance to individual pavilions. These tours and services, mostly targeting Westerners, have spread via word of mouth secretly and quickly.

The price for a one-day tour, often including an Expo ticket, lunch and five to seven pavilions, varies from 500 yuan (US$74) to 1,500 yuan.

The price for individual pavilions depends on popularity - 200 yuan to 500 yuan for small ones like those in the Urban Best Practices Area, 1,000 yuan for popular ones like UK, Italy, or Germany, and 1,500 yuan for the China Pavilion.

"I know it might be a bit bad to abuse the entrance, but since they have such offers, why not?" said Patrick Turner, a tourist from the United States. "I really enjoyed the trip, and I wouldn't have enjoyed it so much if I had to line up for like three or four hours."

He went with an expatriate friend in Shanghai on a VIP tour for 1,200 yuan, which offered entrance to six pavilions, including Italy, Germany and China, without having to line up or fight for reservation tickets.

Expatriate Lynn Wang paid 750 yuan for a different tour that included the popular UK and Belgian pavilions. She learned about the tour from her alumni club.

Both Turner and Wang said they were approached by people while they were in a VIP lounge. The people were trying to sell VIP tours to other pavilions.

Many pavilions allow employees, from guides to security guards, to bring their family and friends through VIP entrances.

This has created an opening for individuals and agencies with the right connections to offer VIP tours.

Xu Zuhua, deputy director of the Expo's Visitors Service Center, said such tours are not allowed as VIP access was not for sale. He added that they would contact pavilions and spare no effort to crack down on such activities.

Meanwhile, some foreign visitors admitted that they had sneaked into VIP entrances and lounges by pretending to be government officials or business representatives of Western countries.

Each pavilion welcomes many delegations from all over the world every day and it is difficult to track down the identity of each VIP.

Plus, some travel agents were also found selling tickets to the China Pavilion for 100 yuan each at the Expo site. Authorized agencies can get about a quarter of the 30,000 tickets to the pavilion every day. They sell any leftover tickets to other visitors.

Xu said: "It's difficult to eliminate these things since there is such huge demand and people are willing to pay."


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