Shanghai tourism authorities are to inspect local travel agencies in an attempt to put an end to cheap packages to Hong Kong that coerce travelers into shopping trips in exchange for commission from retailers.
The Shanghai Culture Market Administration will ask travel agencies in Shanghai to disclose how much they charge for their Hong Kong tours, the Oriental Morning Post reported Monday. Travel agencies who offer trips at prices the same or similar to cost price, indicating that they may be relying on commission from tour guide-led shopping trips, will be further investigated. Agencies that are found to be offering packages that involve commission-based shopping trips will face a fine.
Shanghai Municipal Tourism Administration announced Monday that they will also enhance their supervision of Hong Kong package tours organized by Shanghai travel agencies. "We encourage tourists to tell us of any unpleasant experiences they have on Hong Kong package tours," an officer surnamed Yao from the general office of the administration said. He added that agencies found to be coercing customers into buying goods on shopping trips were likely to be shut down.
The practice of cheap Hong Kong tours that rely on commissions from shopping trips was highlighted by the case of a Chinese tourist who died from a heart attack in a Hong Kong shopping mall last month during an argument with his tour's guides, who were trying to convince him to buy goods.
Some tour guides in Hong Kong offer very cheap or even free guide services to Chinese mainland travel agencies, instead making money by taking tourists shopping and collecting commission from shopping malls.
Although many Shanghai travel agencies, such as Shanghai Donghu International Travel Service and Shanghai Great World International Travel Service, have already stopped offering budget trips to Hong Kong, some other travel agencies are still offering such tours.
Shanghai Jinjiang International Travel Company still offers a four-day Hong Kong trip for just 1,111 yuan ($163), including accommodation and flights, on its website. However, Yang Dong, the deputy director of the international department of the company, told the Global Times Monday that the trip is "only available for the company's staff and their families."
Shanghai Shanhe Travel Agency is also still offering a five-day Hong Kong package for 980 yuan ($143.57), including flights and accommodation, with two of those days set aside for shopping trips. "People like shopping in Hong Kong, and we never pressure tourists to shop," a member of staff, who would not give his name, said.