The National Tourism Administration will pilot a freelance tour guide program in Shanghai and eight other provinces beginning from May, in an attempt to reduce the number of shopping trips, which tourists frequently complain about, Beijing Times reported on Tuesday.
Freelance tour guides are required to sell their services via online platforms and/or offline agencies and collect service fees through a third-party payment platform, the paper said.
According to a circular issued by the administration, the pilot program is part of a comprehensive reform of the country’s tour guide system that will tap more job opportunities for tour guides and create a fair and orderly tourism market.
An online pilot program will be launched in Shanghai and the provinces of Jiangxi, Zhejiang and Guangdong, while Changbai Mountains in Jilin Province, Changsha and Zhangjiajie in Hunan Province, Guilin in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Sanya in Hainan Province and Chengdu in Sichuan Province will pilot both online and offline services.
From mid-May, travel agencies and consultancies, and tourist centers at major scenic spots as well as their online business will all be subject to instructions by the tourism authority for the implementation of the pilot program, the paper said.
According to Sun Liqun, an executive at China International Travel Service, most tour guides in the selected provinces are not affiliated to any travel agencies and operate on a freelance basis, so the pilot program will help enhance supervision of them, the paper said.
A series of supervision measures, including a package of standard contracts, will be launched soon. Freelance tour guides must sign contracts with legal agencies and are forbidden to bypass online booking platforms or relevant offline agencies to offer services directly to tourists. Those who violate the rule will be fined between 1,000 yuan ($153.3) and 10,000 yuan and have their license suspended or revoked, according to the paper.
They are also banned from offering services other than tour guiding and will be punished for hard selling goods and services or recommending illegal accommodation, boarding options or shopping spots to tourists, it was added.
The tourism regulator will set up a national tour guide supervision platform by the end of May, which will provide services including freelance tour guide certification, a published list of agencies that offer freelance tour guide services as well as information about the businesses and tourists’ comments.