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March 29, 2012

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Tourist sites criticized for charging more than many locals can pay

WHEN Liz Zhang, a postgraduate student from Hebei Province, passed Madame Tussauds in Shanghai recently, she hesitated and decided just to pose with the wax image of hurdler Liu Xiang for free and not go into the museum because the price for a ticket, - 150 yuan (US$24) - was too high.

"Most of the tourist spots in the city charge high admission fees," said Zhang. "I once planned to visit some landmarks, such as the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and Jin Mao Tower, but ended up just walking around the Lujiazui area and took some pictures of the buildings. They're too expensive."

Zhang is not alone. While the number of tourists visiting Shanghai is rising every year, many are complaining about the high admission prices of some attractions.

Far too high

A recent survey carried out by the China Tourism Academy reported most Chinese tourists complained about admission prices on the mainland. The survey, which canvassed 30,000 tourists around the Chinese mainland, showed that about 20 percent of the expense people spent on a domestic trip went to admission fees, twice what it cost people overseas.

Compared to locations in other countries and also considering Chinese people's income levels, the price of domestic tourist sites are far too high, according to a Shanghai Daily investigation.

For example, admission to Shanghai's Oriental Pearl TV Tower is 150 yuan, about 5 percent of the average monthly per capita income in Shanghai last year. The Empire State Building in New York City charges a similar US$22, but that occupies only 0.5 percent of an average New Yorker's monthly personal income.

Meanwhile the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium costs 160 yuan for an adult and 110 yuan for a child, while the Shanghai Wildlife Park charges 130 yuan. Although the prices for group visitors are lower, local tourism authorities acknowledge that most tourists coming to the city are individual ones.

Tourists agreed that admission costs are too high. "The service and entertainment is great, but the admission fee, to be honest, is expensive," said Ahreum Park, a tourist from South Korea touring the Lujiazui area.

Tourism insiders said that for the sake of long-term development of Chinese tourism, the facilities cannot depend on tickets as its sole source of income.

"High admission fees retard people's willingness to travel to some extent," said Guo Dongjie, deputy director of, a popular online travel service platform. "If the tourist spots can lower the prices a bit, more people would be more satisfied with the market and thus stimulate its development eventually."

But some experts said low prices may cause a lower-quality experience. An official with the Shanghai Tourism Administration, who wished to remain anonymous, said he thought admission fees are adjusted a bit higher to limit the customer volume so that the tourism attractions can provide better service.

In the past two years, the administration has organized some "discount days" in the city, when most of the sightseeing spots let people in for half price on designated days. On those days, almost all the popular attractions saw very long queues from the early morning.

"Tourist sites can hold some special activities to give visitors more frequent discounts," said the official. "For example, they can provide discounts on visitors' birthdays, which can also attract more people."


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