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January 7, 2010

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Hainan ups tourism standards

HAINAN, China's southernmost tropical island province, aims to clean up its tourism industry in a drive to become a global tourist destination like Hawaii or Indonesia's Bali.

The provincial government wants to set up a long-term process to tackle problems like poor services, overcharging and "dumping" of tour groups deemed unprofitable, Governor Luo Baoming said yesterday.

Luo made the remarks at a press conference in Beijing after the Chinese government on Monday issued a plan to build Hainan into a top international destination by 2020.

Luo said the task includes "building a long-term mechanism to manage the tourism industry, levy penalties and fines on malpractice and provide more training."

The first penalty this year issued from Hainan's tourism department was made on Sunday.

Tourist guide Zhang Chao dumped 11 tourists after they refused to pay fees for "optional" tourist sites on December 18, 2008.

The tourist department found that Zhang violated a contract under which tourists could choose not to visit the optional sites. Zhang was also found to have changed travel routes to seek more commissions.

Zhang was fined 20,000 yuan (US$2,928). The travel agency Zhang worked for, Baozhong Travel Agency, had its business license revoked.

"It's painful and embarrassing to hear complaints from tourists on cheating, overcharging, fake goods and dumping," Luo said.

He cited an old Chinese proverb - "A small piece of rat dung can ruin a pot of soup" - and insisted that an orderly tourism industry was the minimum requirement for the island's ascendancy to international destination status.

Asked about expanding golf courses in Hainan, the governor denied that the province had violated China's strict rules on building golf courses and had never used subsistence farmland to build golf courses.

Hainan will hold a large international tourism forum in March as part of its drive to become a global destination, Hainan's Party chief Wei Liucheng said at the press conference.

The forum would promote Hainan's tourism and draw many national tourism department and culture department heads, Wei said.

Hainan was designated a province in 1988 and became China's largest special economic zone the same year, enjoying preferential development policies. Wei said Hainan would open more duty-free shops to attract tourists.


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