How to avoid costly fees and enjoy the view

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2012, 12:00am

Increases in admission fees at several scenic spots on the mainland sparked tips online on how to avoid costly fees while still enjoying the often-breathtaking views.

Various fare-evasion tips, including ways to avoid ticket booths, were readily available in the lead-up to and during the three-day Labour Day holiday that ended yesterday.

But Professor Yao Kunyi , who specialises in tourism planning and management studies at the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade, said these back-door tips were often misleading as they could expose sightseers to unexpected risks.

Still, he said the growing popularity of such tips reflects growing discontent among people over rising admission fees at tourist sites.

'It's particularly outrageous for a family of three to spend about 1,000 yuan (HK$1,200) on just admission fees when they visit a scenic spot on the mainland,' Yao said. 'On top of that, some of the increases are not necessarily justified, as there hasn't been much transparency in the decision-making process.'

On Friday, a government-organised hearing over an admission-fee rise from 60 to 120 yuan for the Slender West Lake in Yangzhou , Jiangsu , drew criticism for its lack of broader representation. None of the 24 people picked by the government to attend the hearing opposed the increase.

In response to such increases, people are simply trying to avoid such fees. An online article became popular among visitors to the famed Tai Mountain range in eastern Shandong province by offering six routes for amateur sightseers, and up to 20 routes for more experienced hikers, helping visitors avoid the 127-yuan entrance fee. One post offered a roundabout route involving a bus trip and train ride to Taian .

Quoting official statistics, Xinhua reported early last month that admission fees for half of the top 130 scenic spots on the mainland were now more than 100 yuan a person, and the entrance fee for the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in central Hunan province was up to 248 yuan per person - the highest price for a national park on the mainland, or more than three times the US$12 admission fee for a one-week pass to Yellowstone National Park in the US state of Wyoming.

Meanwhile, management at more than 20 tourist attractions have raised or plan to raise admission ticket prices by between 20 and 60 per cent after the expiration of a 2008 order by the National Development and Reform Commission that mandates a three-year gap between price increases.

At the beginning of last month, the fee to visit the ancient town of Taierzhuang in Shandong went up by 60 per cent, to 160 yuan a person, triggering widespread complaints.

One of the officials in charge of overseeing the Tai Mountain range said that online tips to avoid fees had little impact on how much money the site brought in, as few tourists were willing or able to try to access the mountain via routes touted online.