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June 19, 2010

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Crackdown on compulsory shopping stops

SHANGHAI tourist authorities announced yesterday that tour agencies which force visitors to shop at certain businesses in Hong Kong and Macau, sometimes with threats of withholding their return tickets, will be investigated and may lose their business licences.

The Hong Kong tourist authorities also announced yesterday tour guides or travel agencies that force tourists to shop may have their business licenses canceled, yet some Shanghai tour agencies continue to try to attract tourists with "shopping travel packages."

The Shanghai Tourism Administration said it will investigate and punish tour agencies and guides if tourists reported them. If consumers suffered loss during the trip, the agency will refund the cost of the trip.

"We'll investigate cases to decide the punishment," administration official Yao Shuoye said yesterday.

"The most serious punishment will be cancellation of business licenses. Tour agencies may also be fined."

Shanghai Daily, however, still found some tour agencies promoting "lowest-cost" packages to Hong Kong or Macau.

For example, the Shanghai China International Travel Service Co Ltd was promoting a five-day trip to Hong Kong and Macau for 888 yuan (US$126), about half the usual price. The tour agency said several shopping stops were arranged in the itinerary, and tourists were not allowed to skip them.

Low-cost tour packages usually have "shopping traps" for tourists because tour guides can only make money from taking commissions from stores related to the tour agency.

Tour agencies said such packages have strong market potential because many tourists want cheaper packages.

At present, Hong Kong tour packages are rather polarized; the upmarket products target individual tourists, while tourists who want to take group tours usually don't have much traveling experience and usually focus on price rather than quality.


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