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Free tour packages outlawed

Shanghai has banned travel agencies from offering free tour packages to protect tourists from forced shopping trips and sub-standard service, Shanghai Tourism Administration said yesterday.


Dao Shuming, director of the local tourism administration, said yesterday that those arranging "zero-price" tours now face a penalty of 50,000 yuan (US$7,315) to 200,000 yuan.


"Zero-price" tours, in which tourists pay nothing to the travel agency for the trip, are not as attractive as they appear. Tourists on such tours are always taken to stores that have made commission deals with tour guides.


Sometimes the guide makes it clear at the start of the trip that the tour members have to buy a certain amount of souvenirs. If they don't, they often get bad service from their tour guides. In some cases, tourists are taken to a store and forced to shop, Dao said.


Forced shopping is one of the major complaints received by the administration.


(Shanghai Daily June 24, 2009)