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China: Hard labour for tourism this holiday due to SARS

Travel agents are catching a chill this spring following the decision to cut the week-long Labour Day holiday to…

Travel agents are catching a chill this spring following the decision to cut the week-long Labour Day holiday to five days and the imposition of a ban on cross-region travel.



The China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) is discouraging trans-regional tourism to prevent the spread of the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).



Tour groups are urged to keep away from rural and remote areas in China, and large tour groups, cross-regional tours and tours to and from areas struck by SARS are prohibited, CNTA vice chairman Sun Gang was quoted by Xinhua as saying.



Sources with China International Travel Service said no one has registered for domestic travel during the Labour Day holiday and all its domestic tours have been cancelled as a result.



Another major travel agent, China Youth Travel Service, also reported a sharp drop in domestic tourism. Fewer than 100 tourists had registered to travel during the holiday compared with more than 2,500 people over the same period last year.



Zhao Yi, manager of domestic tourism, said nearly all phone calls to his office were to cancel reservations.



International travel has also been badly hit



With most countries in Southeast Asia reporting SARS infections, South Africa and Australia have become the last resorts for travellers. Both travel agencies said hundreds of customers had registered to travel to the two nations in March, but people are increasingly calling to cancel their journeys.



Hu Shuwei, manager of overseas travel with China International Travel Service, said item 14 of the contract with customers made it clear a full refund is available when uncontrollable events occur. We consider the outbreak of SARS to be such an event, and have agreed to refund customers, Hu said.



Different to domestic tourism, travel agents have paid visa fees to embassies and these expenses will be deducted from the refunds.

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