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Officials close illegal tour agencies

ILLEGAL travel agencies are offering cheap Shanghai tours that make visitors spend time and cash in designated shops, city tourism authorities warned today.

Small travel agencies based near the city's main railway stations offer one-day tours for between 150 yuan (US$22) and 200 yuan, said Shanghai Tourism Bureau. But the cheap tours often make visitors spend hours in shops selected by the organizers, officials said.

Two illegal travel agencies were busted this morning by an inspection team including officials from Shanghai Tourism Bureau, traffic law enforcement team and the cultural industry watchdog.

Tiancheng Travel Agency on Hengfeng Road was forced to shut down for holding neither a business permit nor license. The agency arranged one-day city tours for only 180 yuan.

Wanzhong Travel Agency also closed its tour business as it was only authorized to sell train tickets.

The inspection team yesterday paid surprise spot checks at three travel agencies but only Haoxing Travel Agency possessed both the license and permit.

But a Shanghai Daily investigation has uncovered underhand tactics that include forcing tour customers to sign contracts to pay a one-hour visit to a fortune teller and a knife shop.

Gu Jianbin, director of market management of Shanghai Tourism Bureau, warned the agency to stop sending visitors to shopping venues.

"Illegal agencies are challenging the business of regular ones with a low price and impairing the legal right of their customers with invalid contracts and fake invoices," said Gu.

Liu Guangxi, an official with Shanghai Tourism Quality Supervision Office, said it has received various complaints from visitors suffering compulsive shopping or made to buy fake products at a high price.

Gu said the bureau was carrying out more spot checks at the city's sightseeing spots to close illegal agencies and build a better environment for tourism.


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