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Debate on tour tipping revived

Compulsory tipping is once again a hot topic of discussion because a major online travel service said it planned to introduce it in the country.

The discussion mainly focused on whether such a policy would improve the service of tour guides and whether it would be an added economic burden for tourists.

Ma Yu, a public relations employee at Ctrip.com, one of China's major e-travel services, said it planned to introduce a tips scheme to some of its high-end domestic tour groups.

Ma said the tips would work as incentives to tour guides to provide better services.

In April, Shao Qiwei, director of the National Tourism Administration, said a policy for tipping tour guides was under discussion and would be included in a new tourism law.

Liu Deqian, vice-director of the tourism research center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said a tipping scheme was a good idea.

"Tips will stimulate tour guides to provide better services and help stamp out unpleasant practices, such as forcing tourists to go shopping and charging them extra fees," Liu said.

However, percentages and how tips should be paid are still being discussed.

Liu said more needed to be done to address pay for tour guides.

"Some receive no commissions from travel agencies, thus they are more likely to make money from bringing tourists to shopping centers and those tourist attractions where extra money is charged," Liu said.

"A reasonable payment system and a social security system for tour guides should be established before the tipping system."

He also suggested that service fees should be charged before the tour groups set off to guarantee the guides' basic incomes, and afterward every tourist would tip according to their guide's service.

However, at least one occasional traveler cast doubt on charging service fees.

"I have no problem with giving tips as long as the guides' services are good, but how can I make sure that the service fees charged by travel agencies before departing will go to the guides?" asked Han Hai, a resident of Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu province.

Liu said the legislation must make it clear service fees would go to tour guides. "Only when tour guides' incomes are guaranteed will they be able to stop forcing tourists to go shopping and provide good services."