Zero Dollar Tour in China

Zero-Dollar Tour Believed to be originated from Chinese media, the zero-dollar tour denotes a sort of inferior quality in China’s outbound package tours. Zero-dollar tours, or zero-based tour fares, are those where the tour operator allows tours without, or with very low fees. Thus providing no profit margin. Often the tour’s fees cannot cover the costs of the tour guide or the tour operators; the operators rely for income on the commissions from tourists’ shopping and expenses. This business of package tours has been showing a wide range of inferior quality since the 1980’s, along with the tour operator’s misinterpretations of product information, defects on contracted services as well as misguiding consumptions and cheating tourists at the destination.

Zero-dollar tours derive their name from package tours sold mainly in China, and to a much lesser degree in Korea, which include free air fare and low-cost accommodation. China's rapid economic growth has fostered a tourist boom among the mainland Chinese, with Southeast Asia the favorite destination, at least for now.

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The surge in package tour groups from China, an important source of income for the region. Since the zero-dollar tour’s prices are much lower than normal tour, and the price offered cannot cover all of the tour costs.

Because of the low price offered by these tours, the tour guide forces the tourists to go shopping and they gain income from the commission charged. Some tour operators provide no salary for the tour guides, who then use unethical methods to force tourists to make purchases and thus earn commissions.

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Once the incredulous (and gullible) tourists, the customers of this package tour sets foot in the certain destination, the scam begins. The tour guide might reduce sightseeing time and increase shopping time at shops which sell products that are expensive or fake.

The customers of these tour groups are usually brought from one expensive jewelry shop to another, from pricey entertainment joints to expensive restaurants, to allow the tourists to purchase goods. From these tourists expenses, the tour operators gains commissions. If the customers are not willing to spend money on goods, some of the tour guides use extreme methods to force them to make purchases, such as threatening not to allow the customer to stay in the hotel they have booked into.

Not being able to speak Thai, and virtually imprisoned within the group, they are ripped blind. These tours obviously do not only make tourists dissatisfied, but also affect the reputation the certain tourist destination. From the explanation above, it can be seen that this is one act of tricking customers or manipulating a product offered. It does not only abuse the tourists, but also gives a lot of disadvantages to the certain country. It might be very cheap or rather free, but it is sure to destroy the destination country’s reputation.

This is something that the local government and tour operators need to be concerned about. If they are not serious in handling this type of mischief business, it can cause a long term negative affect towards the travel and tourism of the country. Zero-Dollar Tour in Thailand With China’s rapid economic growth, the travelling demands of the Chinese people are also increasing with Southeast Asia as the favorite destination. That of course includes Thailand as one of a famous tourist destination and as a country close to Thailand.

According to the references, the problem of zero-dollar tours is now very common in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, in which the Chinese tourists pay a very low price for a tour program, since many tour operators in China offer packages to Thailand at deep discounts. They recover their costs through alliances with Thailand-based agents and guides. The Thai operators tack on extra charges while they take the tour groups to suffer through illegal activities like soliciting prostitutes, gambling or being taken to shopping to expensive shops to generate kickbacks to the tourist guides.

Since most Chinese tourists are first-time travelers and are unaware of the actual cost of the packages. As a result, the Chinese tourist will be very disappointed and feeling cheated since they are not taken to more tourist attractions, instead they are forced to make more expenses when they are expecting to save much from the cheap tour package. They might have spread bad information about Thailand’s tourism and even ruin the reputation based on they’re experience. The Chinese even believe that these travel tours are arranged by the Thailand tourist attractions.

Customer complaints were widely published in China through their Chinese Medias that reported on some tourist’s experiences and the result has been bad publicity for Thailand. The zero-dollar tour practice has led to several disputes between Chinese tourists and travel agents in Thailand. Causing a tense situation in the travel and tourism industry between the two countries. Unscrupulous tour operators (both Thai and Chinese) and their selected outlets in Thailand reap impressive rewards - one estimate puts the loss to the legitimate tour industry at as much as US$400 million a year.

The worst part is that officials claim that about 90% of Thailand's inbound operators specializing in Chinese tourists are of the "zero-dollar" kind. Impacts of Zero-Dollar Tour in Thailand The most important consequence of this tour packages are its inferior quality. The qualities of these package tours are underprovided especially in the shopping and discretionary consumption. Inferior quality itself is not a result of service failure but rather the tour operator’s purposed intentions to extract profits through exploiting tourist expenditures at the destination.

These inferior quality might include actions such as; Changing the travel itinerary without consultation or approval by tourists, uncompetitive shopping arrangements- whereby the tourists’ choices are limited to those shops favored by the tour operator (shops that pay the tour operator a commission), false or misleading practices aimed at deceiving tourists at the destination, low service quality where package tours that do not feature the “best” attractions at the destination or services delivered by tour operators are of low standard.

The impacts of the zero-dollar tour, in any country are obviously destructing the destined countries image whether short or long term. It is definitely the type of tour unwanted in any country where in this case, especially Thailand. It is a very painful reality that the fact of zero-dollar tour in Thailand is including as high. From the definitions and explanations above, it can be concluded that zerodollar tour operators are not honest with the customer. They act in tricking tourists that by the nd of the tour, great disappointment will ravish in them. The positive side of this tour is that is very cheap, even free in some cases. But the negative effect of this tour takes a very large place whether in the tourist’s side, and the destined country. Zero-dollar tours are not ethical because this phenomenon is not fair to the tour guide and not honest to the customer. In ethics, it is just not just about doing the right thing; it is also about the reputation and financial aspects of the hospitality industry.

Therefore, tour operators should be concerned about the ethical issues of zero-dollar tours because this relates to agencies, brands and revenue. Some tourism agencies may think that business is business and they are only concerned for their revenue and not ethical issues such as employee welfare or value-for-money for customers. Moreover, nowadays many hospitality managers are not focused on the long-term health of the industry, only short-term profit.

Therefore, some tour operators provide zero-dollars tour to the market to increase their profits, without thinking about the long-term impacts of it. Suggestions in handling Zero-Dollar Tour Based on the explanations above, it can be concluded that zero-dollar tours are not ethical because this phenomenon is not fair to the tour guide and not honest to the customer. Zero-dollar tours are not something that any country, including Thailand, wants to see in the city because of the destruction of the country’s tourism reputation.

However, a number of factors contribute to their continuation such as the tough competition between travel agencies and tour operators, the high demand of travel packages in low price, etc. That is why there should be actions done especially by the government in order to eliminate this adverse tour once and for all. From this short research, it is suggested that the Thai Government should take part in the supervision of tourism agencies. For example, by setting minimum wages for tour guides and introducing a standard market price to cover costs.

This way, it is hoped that local operators will no longer be forced to make their money back by taking tourists to disreputable stores and entertainment complexes that pay commissions. The government should also use strict measures and sanctions to punish the tour operators who conducted zero-dollar tours or other illegal activities to Chinese tourists as well as other tourist victims of these tours. For example if found guilty, the tour operator will be immediately taken off the list of tourism business certification and punished in accordance with applicable laws.

Socialization on the standard market price to the public is also important, since public society will then learn that often not everything can be achieved at a very low price including tour packages. With such a low price, the customers should think about how theses agents will obtain their profits. Even with logical thinking that by spending very little money to be able to travel to a lot of places is impossible, the victims of this tours proves that logical thinking is not valid since nowadays marketing and advertising strategies are very innovative and can be very ‘inviting’.

Whether by directly educating tourists about the basic cost concepts of organized tours or providing a complete guide for their trip before going on a tour, hence increasing their awareness and encourage them to avoid joining zerodollar tours. Socializing to the travel agencies or broader the tourism industry community of the country for example, should also be done. Either by training standards, through seminars or a quick educational development program.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) needs to gives understanding to the ravel and tourism industries in the country about the importance of applying the correct ethics in their industry to obtain long term benefits. The tourism agencies need to be aware of the importance of ethics and not just because of the ethical concern themselves, but also because agencies will create better relationships with their customers if the customers are satisfied with their provision. This is very important for all service industries including tourism.

Updated: Feb 22, 2021
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Zero Dollar Tour in China. (2016, Dec 15). Retrieved from

Zero Dollar Tour in China essay
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