On October 1st the new PRC Tourism Law will enter in effect and its provisions aim by one side to protect the interests of both tour operators and tourists, and by the other side to provide them with rules of conducts.

Special consideration have been given to the behavior that tourist shall maintain during their travelling, and which include protection of environment and civilized behavior, together with abiding to both national and local laws. Tourists shall also have rights vis – a vis the tour operators, such as being compensated in case of violations of their rights, receive assistance and protection from tour operators in case of any danger for the tourists’ properties and the cases according to which they can early terminate travel contracts receiving total or partial restitution of the fees paid to the tour operators..

An extensive section of the law is dedicated to the tour operators: the new law is setting the requirements for companies that intend to operate as tour agency and how the tour package shall be promoted: for example a specific clause is forbidding to offer of low – price travel packages that entails compulsory “visits” to shopping places: it is in fact common practice for Chinese tour operators to “deliver” their clients to specific shops that, in return, are paying special fees to the tour operator for the “service”.

Further, the law regulate how tour operators shall handle the re-selling of tickets of scenic areas, the employment of tour guides, and the treatment of confidentiality information received by their clients. The travel package relationship shall be governed by a specific written contract that shall contain not only the basic information regarding the parties, but also detailed description of the services to be provided, the itinerary, the payment methods and the expenses, the methods for dispute resolutions, etc.

Finally, sanctions are set for companies that violate their obligations or that operates without proper authorization. Such penalties broad from fines to confiscation of five times the illegal profits to revoke of the license to operate.

In short, this law is definitively a good first step on regulating the activities of tour operator and for setting an initial “code of conduct” for a responsible behaviors of tourists. However, we cannot omit that in certain parts it appears to be still too generic and we have noticed that, for example, some violations of the rules set therein have no consequences for the infringor, such as in the case of behavioral violation by the tourists, that rise doubts on their actual implementation. We hope that future implementing regulations may cover such omissions and grey areas.

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