Sunday, 4 June 2017

CHINA: Chinese Tourists Conned Into Forced Shopping Tours, Served With Food From Expired Ingredients

Man makes three attempts to kick off top 30cm of limestone feature in act of senseless vandalism.

It takes nature hundreds of thousands of years to create limestone stalagmites in scenic caves, but only a few seconds for a badly behaved tourist to damage them.

Such was the case in southwest China when a young man deliberately destroyed a 50cm stalagmite at a cave in Songtao county, Guizhou province, adding yet another entry to the list of Chinese tourists’ obnoxious behaviour.

Surveillance cameras caught the white-shirted man trying to kick off the stalagmite on the side of the main path in the cave, while other tourists were taking photos of the natural marvels.

He made three attempts to eventually knock off a 30cm-long tip and then walked away without taking it, the footage showed.

The scenic attraction’s administrators contacted local police, but the man has not yet been found.

Cave enthusiast Wang Dayong said that it takes an excruciatingly long time, many thousands years for a stalagmite to form from the ground up, drip by drip, or stalactites, which form downwards from cave ceilings, and they can hardly be restored.

Similar stalactite damage has also been reported in Shandong and Liaoning provinces.

This is a deliberate action, an internet user commented. We should have a black list to prevent badly-behaved tourists from entering similar scenic spots.

Lawyer Chen Hao said such vandalism should be denounced. He suggested that the cave’s administration have the broken stalagmite appraised at a laboratory.

Police will detain the man if the appraisal value is above the threshold of criminal charge. If not, the administration office can sue the man for compensation, Chen said.

Tourists in tour groups can be abandoned by the side of the road if they don’t leave tour bus to help guides earn commission in stores.

Chinese tourists taking part in tour groups in Thailand and Vietnam are often abandoned by the roadside if they refuse to shop for overpriced goods in designated stores, a major way for guides to earn cash, according to an investigation conducted by Chinese state media.

In one case more than 20 tourists from Inner Mongolia were left by the roadside in Thailand after they refused to pay for a 1,800 yuan (US$260) shopping programme as part of their tour earlier this month.

Tourists who refused to shop at set stores in Vietnam can also be left off the tour bus, or their windows are forcibly shut and the air conditioning turned off, the report said.

Tourists usually have to get off the bus and visit stores as a result, they were quoted as saying.

Most guides for Chinese tour groups in Vietnam and Thailand are Chinese because of the lack of local guides who speak Putonghua, industry insiders said.

One common practice in Thailand is for Chinese travel agencies to attract tourists by offering extremely low priced or “zero dollar” tours and to sell on the tour group to local agencies in Thailand.

The Thai agencies then “sell” the tourists to tour guides for 1,000 yuan per head. The guides have to rely on commission from stores visited to cover the tour costs, industry insiders said.

Chinese made over 8.7 million trips to Thailand last year and 7.9 million in 2015.

As cutthroat competition reduces profit margins for budget tours almost to zero, travel agents are turning more to commissions from shops for income.

A growing number of Chinese tourists on low-cost group trips to Japan and South Korea have been greeted with forced shopping and meals cooked with expired ingredients, according to mainland and local media.

The problem has cast a shadow over the tourism boom in both Asian countries prompted by holidaymakers from their neighbour.

It is particularly severe in South Korea where five-day tours can cost as little as 2,000 yuan (HK$2,400) – but whose itineraries mostly include visits to shopping centres arranged by the travel agency.

Experts have warned that if the authorities do not provided better scrutiny of tour operators, South Korea and Japan may follow Hong Kong which saw its number of mainland visitors slump following poor travel experiences.

Chinese tourists have spent millions of yuan on holidays to Japan and South Korea, which pipped Hong Kong as the most popular travel destination for mainlanders last year.

A traveller named Wang said she was pressed into shopping all day at a drab outlet mall in Daegu during a group tour to Seoul and Jeju.

Her all-inclusive 2,499- yuan package tour included visits to eight shopping centres in five days.

Many of the tourists who sign up for low-budget tours to South Korea are professional “shopping agents” whose sole purpose is to buy goods overseas on behalf of their clients, an tour leader said.

Korean media also found that Korean restaurants serving only Chinese travellers used expired ingredients in their guests’ meals .

Intensifying low-cost competition has squeezed profit margins for Chinese travel agents to almost zero, making commissions from the shops their main source of revenue.

The tourists would be asked to spend enough time at the shopping outlets in order to comply with terms in the contract, a tour leader familiar with the business said.

The South Korean government in March revoked the licenses of 68 travel agents targeting Chinese tourists in an crackdown on malpractices in the country’s flourishing tourism industry, but industry experts believe more should be done at the source in the mainland.