Oriental Outlook: The dog-eat-dog tourism industry

This threatening SMS targets an honest travel agency

This week's Oriental Outlook magazine reports on the rip-offs that plague China's tourism sector.

Earlier this year, a former tour guide published an exposé of the industry titled How can I not fleece you? (see ESWN for details). During the succeeding months, the book's author, Wu Jingmin, was interviewed six times by CCTV, and countless others by local broadcast and cable stations; his story appeared in papers across the country alongside investigations into the black heart of travel agencies.

But Wu has come to see all of the media attention as a dead-end, and in late October, he decided to take things to the next level. He sued the State Tourism Administration, though since he is suing on behalf of China's tourists, he does not really expect the courts to accept his case. Here's his rationale, from an interview with Oriental Outlook:

Speaking of the effect of media opinion - in May, as soon as CCTV's Face to Face broadcast, Zhuhai's shopping centers were completely inspected, and there was an instantaneous effect. But now? Those shuttered stores have opened up again. A while ago a reporter for People's Daily ran a piece called, "Sorry, Jiuzhaigou guides - I've made you run naked," and Sichuan Province immediately called a "Trusted Tourism" assembly. Colleagues sent me the text of the meeting's speeches, and it was all the same official boilerplate.

So although I've accepted interviews with all of these influential media outlets, they have not done anything to fundamentally solve the things that I have taken such large risks to try to change. That is, agencies are buying and selling tour groups and exchanging head-count fees the same as usual. This requires government administration, but in the past half-year, I have not seen any administrative departments take any specific steps to clean up the tourism sector; the mess still continues. Maybe tourism isn't the purest industry, but bringing it under control and overhauling it will have an effect on the pace of economic development of related industries, which then will have an effect on the accomplishment record of certain officials.

In other articles in the feature, Oriental Outlook reporters talked to a number of tour guides, from a novice who left the industry after being replaced on her first tour because she called the local tourism bureau about her agencies shady practices, to a master guide who once made 7000 yuan in a single hour by taking his international tour group to a market that specialized in what were represented as genuine pearls, to an industry veteran who no longer has the energy to scam her groups enough to make the big bucks but who sees no other employment options.

The conclusion the articles seem to make is that change in the industry really depends on the tourists themselves - if enough people are willing to believe that it is possible to pay 800 yuan for a trip valued at 8000 yuan, then these scams will continue. According to the president of a Shanghai-based tour agency, books like Wu's that pull back the curtain serve not just as indictments of professional malpractice - they also act as educational texts for tourists, warning them to be rational, informed consumers.

But information is precisely what many in the industry do not want tourists to have. The text message in the above image reads:

Notice to guides: Hainan Jinghui Travel Agency has printed the lowest prices for gate tickets onto its tourist itineraries. To deal with this sort of degenerate agency, we should make a concerted attack. Please forward....

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There are currently 1 Comments for Oriental Outlook: The dog-eat-dog tourism industry.

Comments on Oriental Outlook: The dog-eat-dog tourism industry

Perhaps it was some official with their thumb in the international tourism industry pie that was responsible for all those Lonely Planets that started getting confiscated. The less information tourists have, the easier it is to scam 'em ;-)

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