BEIJING, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) -- Several Chinese travel agencies have raised tour package prices in response to the country's first tourism law, which took effect Tuesday and bans profits from hidden traveler costs, such as mandatory shopping outings.
One travel website has increased the price of its best-selling product, a four-day tour package from Nanjing to Hong Kong, from 2,500 yuan (408.75 U.S. dollars) to 4,088 yuan, a move that was immediately followed by waning customer enthusiasm.
"I've been traveling across the nation with travel agencies because the tour packages they offer are cheap and the arrangements nice and convenient. But now tour packages seem to have become a luxury," said a resident surnamed Xu in Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province.
The new law stipulates that travel agencies cannot deceive tourists into buying tour products with low prices and later earn profits through shopping trips or extra fees.
Before the law, a considerable number of travel agencies used to lure clients with low prices, said Li Guang, manager of the product assessment department of the China Travel Depot, a major tourism service provider in the country.
However, self-paid activities were often squeezed into the tour packages, guides went unpaid for their services, and tour operators earned commissions by arranging shopping trips as part of the tours, he said.
With such practices outlawed, agencies have been forced to boost prices in order to recover costs, and the increase in tour package prices is essentially due to making certain costs that used to be hidden more explicit, said Li
There are other factors that have contributed to the price surge, including the tourism busy season and the rising costs of accommodation, said Xu Xiaolei, vice head of the marketing department of the China Travel Depot.
Wei Ling, vice president of CAISSA Touristic (Group) AG, attributed the price rise to "more diversified tour products being offered, with some self-paid items newly added."
"The tourism law will inevitably compel travel agencies to play by new rules, adjust their business patterns, product prices and services, and root out such practices as guides receiving commissions," said Wang Degang, professor and head of the Tourism Management Department of Shandong University.
"The biggest winner will naturally be tourists," Prof. Wang added.
The law is a "purifier" that the tourist market has cried out for, and it will do more good than harm in the long run, said Han Xiao, who works in a travel agency based in eastern Shandong Province.
But the new law is not great news for all.
A manager of a small travel agency in Shandong surnamed Wang is concerned that the agency may not be able to survive after the law takes effect.
Back in the days when he was a guide, one third of his income came from commissions from taking tourists shopping, Wang recalled.
Now his connections nurtured over the years with a number of shopping destinations must be cut due to the law, he said.
"With no shopping arrangements, we can no longer afford to lower prices to attract clients. Then how can we compete with larger agencies?" Wang said.