'Forced shopping' tours of Hong Kong back as mainland organisers find loophole

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2014, 3:35am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 September, 2015, 10:37pm

Notorious "forced shopping" tours may be back, a tourist industry leader said after an exposé by state broadcaster CCTV.

The mainland banned such tours to Hong Kong and Macau - in which visitors receive free or cheap hotel stays and transport but spend most of their time being shuttled between shops and pressured to make purchases - in October.

Michael Wu Siu-ieng, chairman of the Hong Kong Travel Industry Council, said the undercover report suggested tour organisers had found a way round the rule.

The report started with a complaint by a Beijing man, who said he had joined a four-day package tour to Hong Kong and Macau during which visitors had to get up at 7am to be taken to shops selling jewellery and other goods.

"The tour guide would scorn you as a 'pauper' if you didn't buy anything," he told the broadcaster. To get around the ban on free or cheap tours, organisers accepted a "travel voucher" costing 200 yuan (HK$251) as payment for a tour valued at 4,000 yuan.

CCTV journalists were then shown joining a similar tour disguised as tourists. A guide was shown refusing to allow the tourists to leave a Hong Kong store unless they made purchases.

The woman told the tour group: "The quickest way to leave is to finish making purchases."

She was also seen recording how much each tourist had spent. She told the group they had made too few purchases and would have to spend the next day shopping instead of sightseeing.

Wu said the suspicion was that some tour operators were using so-called travel vouchers to flout the ban, introduced on October 1 last year at the start of the "golden week" national holiday.

He said he would seek more information from CCTV, and would notify mainland authorities if there was evidence to substantiate the allegations.

The council had issued guidelines to tour agencies and licensed guides reminding them that they were forbidden from forcing tourists to spend money in shops and from verbally or physically abusing them.

The mainland rules were introduced after many high-profile incidents of forced shopping.