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    Chinese Cities Vigilant Over Tourist Traps as Tourism Picks Up

    Various offenses, including forced shopping and the overcharging of visitors, in major destinations have gone viral on social media.
    Mar 24, 2023#tourism

    Chinese authorities have stepped up efforts to regulate the local tourism market as malpractices involving travel agencies and related services resurface along with the country’s tourism revival.

    Local police and market regulators in multiple tourist cities, including the southern resort town of Sanya and the mountainous Zhangjiajie, recently opened investigations or punished tourism businesses for offenses ranging from forced shopping to the overcharging of visitors.

    Police in Sanya, Hainan province, announced Wednesday that it has arrested six employees of two local car rental companies that tricked one client into purchasing unnecessary insurance. In addition to charging for the car rental and insurance, one of the companies also made the client cough up for repair fees of 4,040 yuan ($590) for scratches one of the companies made intentionally.

    The travel regulator in Zhangjiajie, located in the central province of Hunan, said on the same day that it was investigating a case of a tourist guide swearing at travelers for not purchasing any souvenirs. The incident occurred last July, but gained public attention after a video clip of the fight surfaced online this week.

    The investigation comes shortly after authorities in Sanya fined a tourist guide 50,000 yuan and stripped her of her license last week. The guide was captured in a viral video shaming her customers for not purchasing from partner stores, from where guides receive commission on goods that are bought.

    Travel-related consumer complaints have sprung up on Chinese social media over the past month as tourism bounced back after the country scrapped COVID prevention measures late last year. As tourism picks up again, China’s regional travel authorities are trying to capitalize on the renewed travel interest through various promotions.

    The town of Ganzi in the southwestern Sichuan province has become a trending travel destination after a video of its tourism official dressed up as a swordsman went viral online. However, the reputation of the town received a heavy blow in February when a traveler criticized a hotel operator in a short video for overcharging him.

    At a time when consumer reviews on social media play a critical role in appealing to new clientele, any bad publicity could quickly tarnish a city’s reputation and dampen tourists’ enthusiasm. Responding to the criticisms in Ganzi, the tourism official who went viral said room bookings had been suspended at the hotel in question and those harming the city’s reputation would be published harshly.

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: VCG)