China announces changes to travel laws

China this week released the long awaited new regulations for the travel industry to protect the rights of Chinese travel consumers against shopping tours and ensuring their safety when travelling.

In the ten years that the Chinese outbound travel industry has been developing, this is the first real effort to tighten up what have long been illegitimate practices harming the reputation of the Chinese travel industry. The announcement comes as the ongoing practices have increased over recent years within the Chinese travel industry, both domestically and outbound.

Premier Wen Jiabao by Order of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China announced the important sweeping changes which are welcome news for Chinese travel consumers. This recent decree is also very good news for destinations and tourism operators globally that have been investing heavily in the Chinese travel market in recent years.

Among the 36 articles announced, some of the key changes relate to ensuring complete transparency to consumers prior to purchasing and also to remaining legitimate whilst on tour. New regulations have given special attention to addressing the Chinese travel industry’s long standing reputation of being heavily commissioned shopping tours in order to market and sell below cost tours. The new rules stipulate that no tour can be sold below cost and there is to be no coercing travelers to go shopping or participate in tour items that need extra payment.

Glen Hingley, Managing Director of Shanghai based tourism representation firm, Asia Tourism Relations said, “This means the inbound travel industry receiving Chinese travelers in destinations such as Hong Kong, Thailand, Australia and other approved destinations should now be gradually forced to change their practices. The current practices of shopping related entities acting as inbound operators and offering below cost tours with itineraries full of forced shopping should now abate. Of course these new regulations need to be enforced and it is hoped that as more and more travelers understand their new consumer rights, this will occur. However for many consumers it also means that the cost of travel will now increase, forcing many at the very bottom of the markets threshold to not be able to afford travel.”

“For many in the travel industry of China this will indeed be a bitter pill to swallow initially but it has to in time mean that the Chinese traveler of tomorrow will be able to have a much more meaningful travel experience that is the tour they purchased, regardless of the destination” Mr Hingley added.

These changes are now being rolled out across China and it is expected that the travel industry will be policed in an effort to ensure the rights of travelling Chinese are protected.

According to the statistics from National Bureau of Statistics of China, by the end of year 2008 there were over 45.8 million of Chinese tourists to travel abroad, a remarkable 11.9% increase since year 2007. World Tourism Organization predicts it is set to reach a staggering 100 million per year by 2020. Tatiana RokouFriday, May 08, 2009 Tatiana RokouFriday, May 08, 2009


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