China Cracks Down on High Prices for Tourists

Posted February 24th, 2012 at 2:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Officials on the southern Chinese resort island of Hainan are vowing to toughen regulations on businesses that serve tourists, after a restaurant was forced to close because it allegedly misled and grossly overcharged customers during January's week-long Spring Festival.

State media reported that the Fulin seafood restaurant in the resort city of Sanya was forced by authorities to close after complaints circulated on social media that staff members had charged one family around $600 for a meal. The message also said staff members bullied a patron into paying for a dish he had not ordered.

The story sparked a flood of similar complaints among Weibo social network users, who shared their own stories of being overcharged, misled, or swindled by merchants in Sanya.

This follows several years of rapid commercial growth for Hainan. In 2010 the Chinese government approved a plan to turn Hainan into an international tourism destination, sparking rapid investment in real estate.

Sanya's local officials have announced the city is launching a three-month crackdown on price-gouging in the seafood market. Local communist party chief Jiang Sixian has apologized for the scandal, saying local authorities have a “zero tolerance” policy for fraud.

State media reports Hainan officials have now set price guidelines for seafood, taxi fares, and hotel rates.