Chinese tourists ripped off by country’s oldest travel agency, undercover report claims

China Travel Service accused of selling half-price trips to affluent travellers then forcing them to go on high-pressure shopping trips

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 June, 2018, 5:39pm
UPDATED : Monday, 18 June, 2018, 5:50pm

China’s oldest travel agency has been accused of discriminating against customers based on their age and spending power, and using high-pressure sales techniques to separate them from their money.

The claims about China Travel Service, a government-run agency that was established in 1949, were made by state broadcaster China Central Television following an undercover investigation.

In its report, CCTV said the travel firm reduced the cost of some of its domestic trips to popular destinations like Yunnan province by almost 50 per cent, but then imposed age restrictions on who could buy them – a practice that was made illegal in China in 2013.

A five-day tour package to the city of Tengchong in Yunnan, for example, was available at several of the company’s stores for about half the price it was advertised at online, but only to people aged 26 to 65, the report said.

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A salesman was heard explaining that the age restriction was imposed because people under the age of 26 “do not have spending power”.

The company offered about 18 conditional “low-cost” tours, with other destinations including the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region and Guizhou province, the report said.

China Travel Service’s agents were also accused of pressuring tourists into spending thousands of yuan at shopping malls and gift shops where they earned hefty commissions.

On at least one occasion, the members of a tour group were threatened that if they complained they might not be allowed to return home and could even face prison time.

They were also asked to sign a statement saying that their purchases were made voluntarily, the report said.

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China Travel Service did not respond to the South China Morning Post’s request for comment.

The government outlawed the sale of low-cost tours – whose operators subsidise the discounts by including forced shopping trips as part of the itinerary – in 2013.