The most recent example of package tour operators intentionally gouging their clients in Yunnan made national headlines this past weekend. However, armed with new laws, this time provincial authorities took quick and decisive action that could signal change is coming to China's rough-and-tumble domestic tourism industry.
At issue is a cell phone video of an irate and ill-mannered guide repeatedly ripping into passengers on a tour bus. The woman, surnamed Chen, was caught on camera berating travelers who had not, in her mind, spent enough while visiting Lijiang. She repeatedly questions her captive audience's "moral standards and consciences".
If each of you cannot spend 3,000 to 4,000 yuan, we will cancel the rest of the trip [to Xishuangbanna]. Your flight tickets home will also not be covered...You need to at least spend for the sake of your conscience. If you cannot do that, there will be retributions coming your way.
Once uploaded to social media sites the video went viral and stirred up public outrage, prompting the Yunnan Provincial Commission on Tourism Development (YPCTD) to suspend Chen's operating license. The company she works for, Kunming Fenghua Travel Agency, was also fined 20,000 yuan (US$3,200), ordered to temporarily suspend operations and placed under further investigation.
Chen was punished under statutes designed to protect travelers and was codified as the "Tourism Law of the People's Republic of China", a series of provisions promulgated in the run-up to the 2014 National Day travel period. The law specifically forbids tour operators from selling cheap travel packages and then accepting kickbacks from businesses they force vacationers to patronize.
Spokesman for YPCTD, Liu Kunfeng, in an analysis on the video quoted by news outlet Crienglish remarked that Chen's behavior was clearly a blatant violation of tourism laws:
First thing, the tour guide forced them to shop. If the video is real, then her words certainly violated regulations. Secondly, her attitude is terrible. Third, she used abusive language. So based on these aspects, we can say she violated [national] regulations.
Tricking tourists into shopping excursions is not simply a problem in Yunnan, as evidenced by the negative netizen reaction to Chen's video from all corners of the country. Perhaps this precedent, driven largely by public outrage, will lead to needed reform across the tourism industry.
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