The Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region is investigating several cases of travelers' rights being infringed upon during irrationally low-priced group tours or through forced shopping requirements.
According to a release from the region's culture and tourism department, several travel agencies in Shanghai and Wenzhou, Zhejiang province lured travelers with irrationally low-priced tours to Xinjiang from mid-April.
The agencies then outsourced local services for the group tours to two tourism companies in the region — Xiongle International Tourism and Xinjiang Juncheng International Tourism.
However, the two companies refused to offer services if travelers' spent less than expected at designated shopping stops.
The companies' improper and illegal behaviors damaged the interests and rights of 270 travelers from Shanghai, and Hangzhou and Wenzhou of Zhejiang province, the department said.
Another 2,000 travelers from Shanghai and six other cities in three provinces — Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui — experienced such treatment from the two companies after joining low-priced group tours to Xinjiang in mid-May.
According to the department, the tours to Xinjiang were offered for only 1,980 yuan ($280) for an 18-day tour with accommodation, including a buy one get one free deal. However, the regular price for such tours is over 4,000 yuan per person.
The cases are still under investigation.
"It's a more attractive 'swindle' for old people, who have time for travel but are always frugal in life. My uncle, my father's older brother aged 67 this year, once booked a group tour to Sanya, Hainan province, with an amazingly low price — 888 yuan for four days and three nights. He said the salesperson of the travel agency told him it was a round trip including flights, which is irrational in reality as the single flight trip from Changsha to Sanya usually costs over 600 yuan," said Tan Zexin, a 28-year-old from Changsha, Hunan province.
He said his uncle paid a 500-yuan deposit, but didn't go as his family found something wrong with the trip and the company.
"My father heard that one of our neighbors had been cheated into buying fake jade, spending 5,000 yuan on another group tour to Yunnan organized by the company, so he stopped my uncle. It was a hoax to attract the elderly with low tour prices while luring them to make purchases at some designated stops during the trips."
Qi Chunguang, vice-president of the travel portal Tuniu, said, "We suggest travelers choose a regular or standard travel agency or tourism platform to book products and sign official contracts with the tour service providers to consciously avoid irrationally low-priced tours."
He said travelers should improve their awareness of security during trips and keep evidence to make complaints whenever they experience improper treatment from tour guides or tourism companies, such as changing tour schedules without notice or forced shopping requirements.
To better regulate the tourism market, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism recently released a notice clarifying that irrationally low-priced tours are a "malignant tumor" on the market that severely hamper the high-quality development of the industry.
It requires local authorities to step up efforts to crack down on such tours and improper behaviors of touting products to travelers or forcing travelers to shop.
The ministry will publish the names of companies and tourism workers violating the regulation and enhance supervision over the market.