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China mulls draft law to check tourism price hikes

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-04-23 14:26

BEIJING -- Chinese lawmakers mulled a draft tourism law on Tuesday that outlines measures to curb rocketing ticket prices amid the country's tourism boom.

The draft law on tourism was tabled for its third reading on Tuesday at the bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature.

After previous readings in August and December, the current version of the draft also includes procedures and rules to curb price hikes on tickets for scenic spots.

Some lawmakers said that wanton price increases in some scenic sites is becoming "a prominent problem," calling for measures to restrain such practices, the report from the NPC's Law Committee said.

According to the draft, tourism sites developed using public resources should strictly control rises in entrance fees or other additional charges. They will also have to hold public hearings if they plan to raise prices.

The bill also bans "hidden price increases" through increasing programs for extra charges. Such programs should reduce or even abolish charges once the investment has been recouped, the draft stipulates.

To keep tourists better informed and ensure their safety amid the backdrop of the country's tourism craze, which is especially apparent during public holidays, the draft law stipulates that tourism sites should issue early warnings to the public if the number of tourists at a site is expected to reach maximum capacity.

Operations could be suspended for six months for scenic areas that fail to issue such warnings and take necessary measures to ease the flow of visitors or those that receive tourists in excess of the maximum capacity, according to the draft.

In response to public calls to enhance resource protection, the draft added that natural resources and cultural relics for tourism use should be developed lawfully.

Some lawmakers have suggested that the bill could introduce measures to curb uncivilized behavior among some tourists, as such behavior has had negative impacts on society, according to the report from the Law Committee of the NPC.

The draft also includes guidelines stating that tourists should follow norms of civilized behavior, and tour guides should inform and explain the norms to tourists and dissuade them from immoral social behavior.

In addition, the bill includes a provision to counter the rampant practice of "zero- or negative-fare tours" in China that undermine the legitimate interests of tourists and businesses.

"Zero- or negative-fare tours" usually refer to tour services sold by travel agents at or below cost in order to attract travelers, who are later forced to purchase goods or tip agents during their tour.

Travel agencies may not sell services at "unreasonably low" prices to attract tourists or seek illegitimate profits by arranging for tourists to purchase goods at designated stores or any paid travel sessions other than those listed in the contracts, according to the draft.

In response to calls from some lawmakers, the bill also imposes a three-year ban on those whose tour guide certifications have been revoked for luring or forcing tourists to purchase goods or for unnecessarily changing tour itineraries.

China's domestic travel market is the largest in the world, and the country ranks third in terms of tourists received from overseas.


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