US group tour requires big deposit
The United States may open to Chinese group tours next year, but travelers will have to put down a substantial deposit before booking a trip to America.
Group tourists will be required to pay travel agencies a deposit of about 100,000 yuan (US$12,000) before their trips, which is refundable after they return.
China's National Tourism Administration and officials from the United States signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday in Washington that will facilitate Chinese group tourism to America.
"The application procedures may be simplified if Chinese visitors can travel on an ADS (Approved Destination Status) visa," said Chen Suiqin, general manager of China Travel International's Shanghai office.
Currently, Chinese individual visitors to the United States have to travel on different visas for either business, study or a family visit.
Group tourism is not officially allowed at present.
Chen said to avoid prolonged stays, authorities from both countries would be very cautious selecting trustworthy operators, take away their licenses if many problems occur, and travel companies will also be cautious when receiving customers.
Peter Yu, vice manager of the outbound department of Shanghai FASCO, said if Chinese group tours to the United States are approved, it means that tourists could gain official help from China's overseas authorities when they encounter problems.
He doesn't expect the visa procedures to be simplified much, however.
The number of people getting visas to visit America will not rise substantially, according to Yu.
"The condition will still be very strict," the company official said.
The tour packages, which could last at least 10 days, may include big US cities such as Washington, Los Angels and San Francisco, as well as famous attractions including Hollywood and Disneyland.
The tours will probably be priced between 20,000 and 30,000 yuan, authorities said.