China's National Tourism Administration (NTA) announced Thursday that it has revoked the official ratings of 44 scenic spots and the licenses of 11 travel agencies. The large-scale crackdown is believed to be a part of efforts to better regulate the country's tourism industry.
According to rating standards issued by the NTA in 2004, China's tourist attractions are given ratings that range from A-Class at worst to 5A-Class at best after being assessed on the quality of their facilities, overall security, management and services.
According to the administration, a botanical garden in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, a 5A-Class scenic spot, received a "severe" warning while another nine 5A-Class tourist attractions including the Fuzi Confucius Temple-Qinhuai River scenic area in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province and Qiandao Lake (Thousand Island Lake) in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province have also been warned.
A total of 34 travel agencies have been ordered to suspend their operations and improve their services, said the NTA.
This move is the first round of what will be an ongoing campaign against tourist industry malpractice. This round focused on businesses that monopolize the market, operate illegally and force tourists to purchase souvenirs, said the NTA.
"We received the notice ordering rectification and have started to make improvements to our facilities and services," an employee at the Shenyang garden said Thursday.
The NTA could not be reached of press time.
"Although this is not the first time that the NTA has revoked the ratings of A-Class scenic spots, this large-scale crackdown shows that tourism authorities are becoming more serious about regulating the industry and are determined to implement harsh punishments on violators," said Su Haopeng, a tourism law expert at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.
The 5A ratings serve as advertisements for tourist attractions, but such ratings should also put more responsibilities on their administrators, Su argued. "Losing the rating may lead to a drop of their ticket price and a loss of tourists."
The NTA started the second round of the crackdown in March, focusing on combating businesses which offer super-low travel prices amid other violators. Media reports have claimed that such services help businesses illicitly collect customers' personal information.