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July 4, 2011

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Group-purchase tour prices suspicious

LOCAL tourism authorities yesterday advised travelers not to buy online group-purchase tour packages, claiming their prices are often too good to be true.

The Shanghai Tourism Administration said group purchase websites don't have the legal right to organize travel groups. Therefore, customers must determine whether packages are provided by legal travel agencies.

Investigations found some group purchase websites claimed to be selling packages on behalf of travel agencies, but actually the agencies had no deals with them.

"Tourists should know that booking holiday packages is different from buying goods," said Dao Shuming, director of the administration.

"Not all companies are qualified to organize tour groups."

The National Tourism Administration said it is dealing with a suspected group-purchase swindle case.

A group purchase website issued information on a five-day trip to southern China's Hainan Province which cost only 580 yuan (US$82). The package's original price was 2,760 yuan.

Although the website said the information was published under the authorization of a travel agency, the administration said its investigation found out that the agency had never cooperated with any group purchase website.

The administration said the website is suspected of cheating consumers, as prices seemed too low.

The package has been ordered to stop promotion, and the administration is still investigating the case. Officials, however, didn't reveal the name of the website.

Travel agencies said as tour packages don't include much scope for discount, low-price packages are suspect.

"Group tours are similar to group purchase, as tour agencies receive certain discounts from hotels and airlines for organizing a group," said Guo Dongjie, vice president of, China's leading online travel platform.

"Therefore, it is not possible to make huge profits - which would allow big discount."


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