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March 12, 2010

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Officials warn of room scams

Tourism officials are warning foreigners to think twice before checking in to unauthorized small family-run guest houses during the 2010 World Expo - some of them poorly furnished apartments charging 5,000 yuan (US$732) per night, twice the price of some five-star hotels.

Zhu Guojian, deputy director of the policy and law department of Shanghai Tourism Administration, said that apart from the pilot guest houses in the Linfen Neighborhood in Zhabei District, all the so-called family hotels being advertised in Shanghai now are illegal.

"We will promote the guesthouse style to the whole city soon, and will announce all of the authorized guest houses at the administration's official Website," Zhu told Shanghai Daily yesterday.

A local resident surnamed Huang said he had visited one of the illegal family-run guest houses located near the Expo site, and was very disappointed.

"It's just a small room with an old bed and some shabby furniture, totally different from the pictures on the advertisement," said Huang.

Even so, some of the apartments located around Metro Line 7 near the Expo site are charging a sky-high price, ranging from 3,000 to 5,000 yuan, Huang said.

The administration said that after the Expo raises the curtain on the home-stay program, the approved family-run guest houses will receive guests through bookings by the administration and tour agencies authorized to sell Expo tickets.

Many residents living near the Expo site said they had received leaflets purportedly from guest-house operators who claimed to be looking for families willing to offer their residence. The operators asked them to rent out their apartments to make 150 to 200 yuan per day.

The "operators" also published an advertisement on the leaflets with a room-booking hotline and Websites.

However, the tourism authorities denied they had appointed these operators, and said those small hotels were illegally run by private owners hoping for big profits.

The guest-house operators shut down their Website yesterday and said they had temporarily closed the business because they are "busy negotiating with local neighborhood committee as a critical procedure for the service."


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