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Action on Illegal Tour Operators in Beijing
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Independent travelers can expect a more pleasant one-day tour experience in Beijing under a new customer contract released yesterday.

The contract, to be adopted from next Tuesday, is the latest measure taken by the municipal tourism administration to regulate the tourism market and prepare for the Olympics next year.

The new contract forbids one-day tour operators from taking tourists to stores not pre-arranged and adding items that travelers have to pay additional fees for.

Those who break the contract will be asked to pay liquidated damages up to 100 percent of the tour expense.

"Banning shopping and other additional items, the new contract will lead to a rise in the one-day tour price, but it will provide a much better tourism environment," Gu Xiaoyuan, deputy director of the administration, said at a news conference yesterday.

At present, a one-day tour costs between 100 yuan (US$13) and 180 yuan.

"The price, which usually includes entrance fees, meals, bus and tour guide fees, is lower than the actual cost," Gu said.

Most travel services, including both legal and illegal, make up the difference by arranging shopping and other activities that can provide a high rebate. This leads to many tourists spending more time shopping than sightseeing.

An April 6 report in China Youth Daily said that the real sightseeing time is less than three hours of the 12-hour tour.

"There have been a lot of complaints, which have greatly impaired the capital city's image," Gu said, adding that Beijing receives 50 million independent travelers a year.

Most of the complaints are against illegal travel services, which now have the biggest market share in one-day tours.

An official survey last year showed 15.4 percent of one-day tour participants traveled with illegal travel operators, while only 2.1 percent with licensed travel agencies in Beijing.

The municipal government has taken a number of measures in recent years to drive illegal operators out of the market, but it has had little effect.

The administration hopes the new policy works, because illegal operators will find it difficult to provide contracts to tourists who demand one to protect their rights. Legal enforcement will be strengthened this year to drive illegal operators out of the market.

(China Daily April 24, 2007)

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