BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – The chiefs of 31 travel agencies in Harbin have been warned to strengthen their management of tour guides.

The move comes after the China National Tourism Administration called for a vigorous investigation into complaints of guides forcing tourists to buy ticket packages during trips to Snow Town, a popular winter attraction in the Heilongjiang province.

The warning was issued on Monday (Jan 15) by the Heilongjiang Tourism Development Committee, Harbin Tourism Development Committee and Heilongjiang Forest Industry Bureau.

“We will conduct a campaign to correct irregularities and promote impartiality in the winter tourism market,” said Mr Zhang Xiaochun, director of the Heilongjiang committee’s supervision and administration office. “Travel agencies and tour guides that break the rules will be published on a blacklist.”

The campaign comes after video footage emerged online recently which showed tour guides asking tourists to buy ticket packages before they arrived at Snow Town.

In one recording, a male tour guide asked a group of tourists under his charge to pay for an attraction valued at 800 yuan (S$164). After a female tourist refused, he insulted her.

The guide also checked the tourists’ mobile phones to prevent them from keeping recordings of the altercation.

Tourists in the group had paid 288 yuan for the trip, which included a meal, lodging and transportation.

In another video, a female tour guide appeared to pressure her group of tourists to buy a package valued at 1,680 yuan (S$345), including several items that most of tourists were not interested in purchasing.

When some tourists refused to pay, the guide told them they would have to stay outside the attractions and bear the extreme cold.

The female tour guide, surnamed Shang, is a member of the Harbin Kanghua International Travel Agency, according to a preliminary investigation by the provincial committee.

“The irregularities have greatly impacted the tourism market and even the reputation of the province,” said Mr An Yuzhong, deputy general manager of Harbin Youth International Travel Agency.

Mr An added: “The measures promoted at the meeting will greatly help standardise the market order and protect those who keep observing the regulations.

“However, it won’t be easy to solve the problems immediately and it needs the joint effort of the tourism agencies and the related government departments.”

Mr An advised tourists to engage the services of quality travel agencies and avoid choosing agencies that offer tours at ridiculously low prices.

For example, a tour to Snow Town that is priced below 600 yuan (S$123) will mostly certainly have extra charges, he said.


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