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April 28, 2011

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New rule may lead to rise in tour prices

LOCAL travel agencies said group package fees may rise due to a new tourism compensation regulation that cracks down on "forced shopping."

According to the regulation, which takes effect this week, every time a tour guide forces tourists to shop, the agency will be required to pay 20 percent of the whole package fee to tourists in compensation. Every time a tour guide adds shopping stops not included in the contract, the agency will pay 10 percent of the package fee, according to the China Tourism Administration.

Travel companies in Shanghai said agencies will not likely risk adding "secret" shopping stops to tour packages.

"Since the travel agencies always earned commissions from the stores, they could afford to lower tour prices," said Wang Yan, general manager of the Shanghai Airlines International Travel Service Co Ltd. "Now they will certainly charge people more without the shopping stops because it's hard to cut costs."

Agencies said most forced shopping disputes involve small travel agencies that are struggling to survive as big agencies are worried about market reputation and thus won't deceive clients., the country's leading online travel service platform, said the regulation makes it too risky for agencies to try illegal practices.

Tourists have long complained that agencies lure them with low prices, but then arrange numerous shopping stops during a trip to earn commissions from stores.

Early this month in Zhejiang Province, stores paid some guides commissions of up to 50 percent on goods purchased by tour groups.

Last July, a tour group that visited Hong Kong got embroiled in a forced shopping scandal. A video spread online in which a guide was seen scolding her clients, who were unwilling to shop.

In the video, she threatened them, saying: "You will have no food or accommodation if you don't buy anything."


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