Group of 34 tourists missing in Croatia
( 2003-12-04 00:25) (China Daily)
China's first group of 34 tourists to the newly-opened tourism destination of Croatia disappeared in the capital city of Zagreb on Monday, the day their visas expired, the Chinese Embassy to Croatia confirmed Wednesday.
The embassy told China Daily that it is quite concerned about the incident, but details would not be clear until Croatian police give a report.
"So far we do not know who these Chinese are, where they are from, or which travel agency is involved,'' Shi Chunyang, an embassy official, said in a telephone interview.
Local media reported that the Chinese, who are believed to be from Shanghai, failed to board a bus that was to take them to Zagreb Airport on Monday.
The group had paid their bill at the Golden Tulip Holiday hotel, where they left part of their luggage, as if they were still staying, police said.
The hotel is less than 16 kilometres from Croatia's border with Slovenia, prompting media speculation that the tourists may have tried to slip into Western Europe.
Croatia lies on a notorious Balkan route used by illegal immigrants trying to get to the West from Eastern Europe, the Middle East or Asia.
There are only a few hundred Chinese people living in Croatia, who are mainly involved in trade or the restaurant businesses. Seldom are there reports about illegal immigration of Chinese in this country, according to the Chinese Embassy.
Together with Hungary, Cuba and Pakistan, Croatia officially became a destination for Chinese tourists on November 1 this year, increasing China's overseas tourist destinations to 29.
But travel agencies in Beijing said Croatia has not yet attracted enough tourists, as the country is new to Chinese people and the cost is prohibitive.
The Shanghai Travel Affairs Committee said it did not know if the trip of these missing Chinese tourists was organized by one of Shanghai's more than 220 travel agencies authorized for overseas tour services.
People smugglers have been known to organize trips for individuals or groups seeking to immigrate illegally under the guise of tourists, industry insiders said.
Tourists' overstays in overseas destinations have long been a headache for Chinese travel firms, as they risk being refused the right to organize further tourist groups to that country or region, said Dun Jidong, a marketing official with China Travel Service.
To avoid more such incidents, domestic travel agencies either charge deposits ranging from 30,000 to 50,000 yuan (US$3,600-6,000), or demand comprehensive identity and financial background checks of the applicants.
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