I refer to our Tour Package in Yunnan, China from 20-28 Dec 2010, bought from Sino-
American Tours (SA).
Non-disclosure of hidden costs/itenerary to consumers
1. We were given the ‘what to bring and what to pay list’ ONLY at the Changi airport
during checking in, which was also AFTER payment was made for the tour package.
2. We were told by Tour guide, Xiao Li / 肖莉 (Tel: 13708423334) that it is compulsory
to use the porter when we were not told nor briefed BEFORE the day of departure. She
told us that we MUST use the porter service so as not to physically tax the driver, but did
not give us the option of handling the luggages on our own. Our new main luggage was
obviously damaged from rough and forced handling via paying of porters to handle our
luggages. In this case, who is responsible for our damage luggage? Furthermore, this cost
was also not briefed to us before signing of the package. Needless to say, it certainly
disrupted our planning in use of our money during the trip
3. Although we can clearly understand that some of the itineraries need to be reorganized,
but visitation to some commercial outlets were clearly not in our stated SA package
itenarary. The Kunming tour guide, Xiao Li, took us to a few health talks which was not
included in the itinerary. She has never ever rushed us when come to these health talks,
just because she earns commission from these products? Are these talks planned by the
Travel Agency, or some clandestine arrangement of vested interests between Xiao Li and
4.The health talks made her limit our time for the espoused itineraries until most of our
time were spent on traveling on the bus, as when we reached our destinations of main
attractions in the stated itinerary, we were only allowed to explore very limited sections
and under time constraint. The only times when we were NEVER rushed by her, was
when the sales people were pushing the products to us in the commercial outlets that she
brought us to.
5. Why is there a stark discrepancy between SA “Booking Terms and Conditions” and
the itinerary information from Kunming’s Scenic Travel with regard to hidden costs?
Once again the itinerary information from Kunming’s Scenic Travel was given to us
ONLY upon arrival at Changi airport. It stated that rides within the places of interest are
to be borne by the tourists separately, but this statement was clearly not found on any of
the written nor verbal information from SA, including the list of what the “Tour Fare
Excludes” under the SA “Booking Terms and Conditions”.
Appaling attitude and actions of tour guide Xiao Li
6. When my wife and I did not take up the optional tour that costed 538RMB per person
according to the SA itinerary, Xiao Li announced this aloud to let others around us in the
coach know with the aim of embarrassing us. She also exclaimed out loud that “why were
we so unpatronising?” Does she earn commission through these optional tours? We were
told to wait for about 2 hours in the restaurant without having any places or entertainment
to keep us entertained. What IF, no one takes up the optional tour, does it mean that the
whole group of tour members have to seat in the restaurant for 2 hours till lunch time?
We were also pressurized to sign a handwritten letter apparently drafted by Xiao Li, that
includes being willing to wait in the restaurant for 2 hours without complain. Seeing the
tour guide showing frustration and showing no respect by talking to us loudly in order to
let the rest hear to embarrass us, we did not wish to pick up a fight with her by not
signing what she wrote on that piece of paper, and therefore risking her in making things
difficult for us for the rest of the trip.
7. We were brought to a hotel of very poor grade (Shuang Lu hotel in Yi Liang) to stay
for a night. Xiao Li blatantly lied to the whole tour group that this was the one and only
hotel in that area, and told us repeatedly not to stroll out of the hotel in the evening as
there was nothing to view in the vicinity. Contrary to what she said, we saw that there
were many hotels around the area when at least six of us from the group went strolling in
the evening! The hotel was not able to address the disgusting odor of cigarette smoke that
is persistent in our room such that we can’t rest well, and we have to bear with the awful
food in our morning breakfast. We can understand if we a given this low grade Hotel of
based on the whole package price, but don’t let the tour guide lie to us that that was the
one and only hotel in that region, and exaggerated that even the Hong Kong Super Star
Jacky Chan also have to stay there when he goes to that area.
8. Apparently the tour guide Xiao Li was more keen in her personal vested interest from
collaborating with some companies, than the shopping interests of the tour group
members. When the whole group did not buy any silk products from the silk shop that
she brought us to in the last day of our trip, she clearly discouraged us from viewing other
clothing merchandises from an adjoining establishment that sells clothings that we were
more interested in. Her anger was obvious when no one in our group made any purchases
from the silk shop. Members of our tour group were shocked by her sudden frustrated and
loud tone of voice when she told us to board the bus “if there is no intention to buy
anything” from the silk shop. This was the first time the tour group did not purchase
anything from the commercial outlet that she brought them to, and also the first time she
used such tone on the whole group. Even though she later added that we can tour the
adjoining establishment that sells smaller priced items if we wish to, none of us wished to
risk offending her further as her impatient tone and figure of speech was unmistakable,
and the rest of the day’s trip is still controlled by her.
For such services and itinerary as mentioned in the above, we undoubtedly deem that
it is unjustifiable to exchange our tour money, and compulsory tips and time for
unpleasant experiences. We are disappointed and appalled at such service standards
of the Tourism Board that after so many years, the problems and attitudes of the tour
guide, hidden costs, and optional tours have not been rectified after all these decades.
We surmise that this is a prime reason why Free and Easy packages are becoming
more popular among tourists.
Commendations of Tour guides
Nevertheless, I still wish to commend on knowledgeability on generally all the tour
guides for this trip. They can clearly speak very well and have extensive information
about the places in the SA itinerary that they recommend.
In particular, I would like to commend the tour guide by the referred name of Zha Xi. As
the tour guide who brought us to Shika Snowy Mountain, he was the only tour guide who
allowed us sufficient time to explore the place of interest stated in the itinerary, and
expressed good command of spoken English.