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New tourism law spurs Chinese independent travel

Updated: 2013-10-03 17:18
( Xinhua)

HEFEI -- China's first tourism law, aiming to upgrade the country's tourism industry, has caused travel agencies to raise prices, spurring more Chinese to become independent travelers.

Having learned that a travel agency's fare for a six-day Thailand tour has surged by 2,000 yuan ($325) following the new law, which took effect on Oct 1, Li Qianying and her friend are planning to backpack around the country instead.

"Two girls looking for experienced backpackers to pool travel expenses in Thailand this November," posted Li, a university student studying in east China's Anhui province.

Outbound tourism products and domestic long-distance tours have seen a significant increase in price since September as we approach the effective date of the tourism law, which will more tightly regulate the market in a bid to exorcise unscrupulous operators and practices.

"The prices for tours to the Republic of Korea, Japan and southeast Asian countries have increased by up to 80 percent during Golden Week [Oct 1-7] compared to the National Day holiday last year," said Xia Jinju, marketing director of Anhui Global International Travel Co Ltd.

The fast-growing tourism industry in China has exposed flaws such as wanton price hikes, unfair competition and agencies' habit of ushering groups into pressurized shopping opportunities. Some operators have long depended on receiving kickbacks from tourist shops in return for bringing them customers. Such scandals concerning "black tour guides" in Hong Kong and Macao have scared tourists away.

The implementation of the new tourism law is designed to get rid of these elements and protect the rights of tourists.

With stricter regulation of the market and no chance of back-door operation, tour prices have gradually returned to the rational, and the abnormal phenomenon of "zero tour fare" has been eliminated.

As a result, more Chinese who hope to travel on a modest budget have begun to arrange their own schedule and turn to the Internet for help.

"Being a backpacker enables me to talk to more people, experience more local customs and culture, and even have the chance to eat and live like a native," said Yang Han, a graduate of the Communication University of China. Yang and her friend have been to Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia and many parts of China including Tibet -- all by themselves.

Many are willing to rough it a little in return for value and memories. Jiang Jiecheng, a sophomore student from Beijing Language and Culture University, once spent a whole night on a train station bench in east China's Jiangxi province.

"But that night is one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life," he said.

Jiang planned to register for a European tour for next year's summer vacation, but the surging fares made him think better of it. A professional tour guide website came to the rescue.

"After typing in my destination and some requirements for the trip, a comprehensive guidebook was produced for me to download," said Jiang, who has decided to visit Europe by himself.

Apathy among travel group members and calculating tour guides has become increasingly unacceptable for today's Chinese, according to Xu Zuolin, manager of, a platform that helps potential tourists find like-minded travel companions.

"At least 500 registered users post their travel schedules on our official account of Weibo, a Twitter-like instant publishing platform, and many of them succeed in finding a travel companion," said Xu.

Han Xuan, manager of Shandong Jiahua Travel Agency, said that the firm has this year logged a 30-percent increase in inquiries about unpacked trips -- a travel product that arranges for transportation and hotels but leaves the sightseeing part to clients.

"In order to gain a share of profits from the growing crowd of individual travelers, we have established an online marketing center to promote our unpacked travel products," Han added.

The tourism law's implementation will accelerate the differentiation of travel modes, which is good for the pluralistic development of the tourism industry in China, according to Wang Degang, tourism management professor with Shandong University's School of Business and Management.

But Wang warned, "Traveling on a shoestring is more of a positive spirit and lifestyle, to find joy amid hardship, but considering other factors such as safety and comfort, it is not necessarily fit for everyone."