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October 24, 2011

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Compulsory tips not an attraction for tourists

MOVES to include tips in the price of holiday packages have aroused the suspicion of local tourists who fear this may become an excuse to raise prices.

Travel agencies believe if a compulsory tipping system can be introduced, bad practices, such as "forced shopping," can be stamped out.

Online travel platform is among companies that have experimented with charging a "service fee," and may extend the practice.

Tips go to tour guides and drivers, and, in return, the company says it can ensure no high-pressure shopping trips or entertainment extras are included in itineraries.

Travelers, however, are unconvinced by the plan.

"I don't mind giving tips to tour guides and drivers as long as they do a good job," said Li Qing, a frequent tourist from Shanghai.

"But I'd feel uncomfortable if a set amount was charged, and if companies were just making more money in the name of a tip."

Li also questioned how much of the fee would actually go to guides and drivers.

At present, a large part of tour guides' and drivers' incomes come from commission they receive for bringing groups to stores near attractions.

Many tourists have complained of being intimidated into buying on such stops.

Local tourist Liu Biqun said that on a trip to Hong Kong she was expected to give tips and shop at stores as well.

"When we entered the store, the doors were closed and we were forced to stay there for two hours," she said.

The Shanghai Tourism Administration does not believe adding a tip charge will improve the situation.

Officials said as long as customers seek low-cost packages, illegal practices will continue.

People complain about being badly treated on trips, said officials. Yet "the cheaper, the better" psychology is rooted deeply in many Chinese tourists, they added.


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