|A glimpse of Taiwan.(Xinhua Photo)|
The number of mainland tourists traveling to Taiwan last year reached 2.2 million, among which 1.7 million traveled with a tour group. As the number of travelers to the island has increased, so have complaints about travel agencies. Many complain that there is too much shopping time and not enough sightseeing activities in the itinerary, saying that most island-circling tours promoted by travel agencies have ended up as shopping tours.
An eight-day island-circling group tour in Taiwan is one of the most popular trips among mainland travelers. It covers a total distance of 1,600 kilometers and includes must-see sights, such as the Taipei Palace Museum, Ali Mountain and Sun Moon Lake.
Although tourists must travel this long distance in only eight days, their tour guides still arrange as much shopping time as possible. Yang Caiying is a tour guide from a local travel agency in Taiwan.
"Pineapple cakes and tea are very popular local products among travelers. Also, there are other special products in Taiwan such as coral and Taiwan jade."
Mr. Li is a mainland traveler. He says he has spent a lot of money during his trip to Taiwan.
"I just bought red coral on which I spent about 98,000 new Taiwan dollars. Besides, I also got some local snacks and souvenirs when shopping here. Altogether, I have spent about 40,000 yuan during my trip in Taiwan."
According to a Taiwan tourism website, the minimum cost of an eight-day island-circling tour costs about 14,400 new Taiwan dollars, including local transportation, accommodations, meals, tickets to scenic spots and tour guides.
But the actual prices quoted by some local travel agencies were only about 4,200 Taiwan dollars. That is to say, these travel agencies will make a loss of more than 10,000 dollars on each customer. Therefore, they have to find other ways to cover the loss.
Yao Daguang, the head of a local tourism association in Taiwan, explains.
"These low-cost tour groups don't mean that tourists can live on 20 to 30 U.S. dollars a day in Taiwan, as that's impossible. Certainly, there have to be some other kinds of commission from the tourists' shopping to cover the cost."
Adding more shopping sites, extending more time for shopping, and misleading tourists to spend money—these are widely known as common tactics travel agencies use to increase income, Xu Yongyu, head of a travel agency in Taiwan, says.
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