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July 1, 2013

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Agencies try 'travel now, pay later' tours

SOME travel agencies in Shanghai are testing a "travel now, pay later" business model before a new tourism law takes effect on October 1.

The "travel now, pay later" model allows travelers to refuse to pay for a trip if they are not satisfied with the service. They also have the option to take the trip again.

Travel agencies said the approach has been well-received by customers and no one has refused to pay nor asked to go again.

China's travel industry has long been plagued by forced purchases of goods, arbitrary change of routes, and wanton price hikes.

Some tour guides curtail tours, steer tourists to overpriced shops or force them to participate in extra programs to receive tips or kickbacks. Travel agencies are sometimes found luring tourists with "zero or negative-fare tours," which refer to packages sold by travel agents at or below cost. Customers of such packages are later forced to purchase goods or tip agents during a trip.

In other cases, agencies have cheated customers by promising accommodation at four or five-star hotels and later changing to lower-rated hotels.

Datong Travel Agency was the first in the city to test "travel now, pay later" trips. It started in March by offering a trip to Lingshan Grand Buddha in Wuxi, neighboring Jiangsu Province.

The agency promised good dining, transportation and accommodation during the trip and said tourists could refuse to pay if two of the 12 contract clauses were broken.

Shanghai China International Travel Service Co Ltd is promoting "travel now, pay later" trips to Hainan, Yunnan and Xiamen. For such trips, it provides the names of hotels and each dish of each meal to tourists in advance.


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