SINGAPORE - Travellers who go on cheap group tours to China may have encountered this scenario: the Chinese guide takes them to a shop selling overpriced items such as jade, silk or pearls, and pressures them into buying something.
This has resulted in many Singaporeans shunning travel agencies and their package tours, especially those with itineraries that include such "shopping stops", based on feedback from its customers, said one agency Dynasty Travel.
In a bid to woo them back, it is removing all such "shopping stops" from its China itineraries from this month (July).
This will however result in its tour packages to China costing more.
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Travellers tend to pay little upfront for package tours to China that include compulsory shopping stops as the Chinese tour operators earn commission from the shops.
It is a common practice among travel agencies to offer such cheap packages as it enables them to stay competitive.
Dynasty said that prices of packages to Beijing and Shanghai, where shopping tours are more prevalent, will go up by 30 per cent to 40 per cent. For example, an eight-day package to Beijing and Tianjin which used to cost $938 will now cost S$1,288, or $350 more.
The cost of tour packages to smaller cities such as Guilin and Zhangjiajie will go up by 10 per cent to 15 per cent.
The extra costs cover the additional attractions that can now be included in the itinerary with the removal of time-consuming "shopping stops", explained its director of public relations and communications Alicia Seah.
Ms Seah noted that previously, its tour group may be given an hour to explore the Great Wall of China, then another hour to shop at a silk or pearl shop.
She added: "As a reputable, responsible and reliable travel agent, Dynasty Travel will not take our travellers to any pre-arranged mandatory shopping stops or factory stores for overpriced goods. Our customers can now fully enjoy the trip by seeing more and experiencing more of China."
Other agencies contacted say that customers have a choice.
Chan Brothers Travel said while it offers shopping stops in some of its itineraries, "it is never compulsory for our customers to purchase anything".
"All overseas partners and their staff have been forewarned and reminded from time to time against adopting any high pressure sales tactics," said a spokesman.
"That said, should customers prefer, we also offer package tours to China with no shopping stops throughout. Ultimately, the choice belongs to the customer."