A guideline on protecting the rights and interests of more than 700,000 tour guides on the Chinese mainland was released on July 30.
Under the guideline, travel agencies should sign contracts with the tour guides they hire, specifying such things as job description, salary, and social insurance.
If travel agencies want to hire part-time tour guides, they should do so only from other travel agencies with the employers’ permission.
At the same time, the guideline encourages travel agencies to establish a performance-based reward system using appraisals such as tourists’ feedback.
The China National Tourism Administration, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and the All China Federation of Trade Unions jointly released the guideline.
Tang Bing, a senior official with CNTA, said tour guides currently depend upon commissions from tourists shopping, and this triggered many disputes in the industry.
“With the rapid development of our tourism market, problems including unreasonably cheap trips have not only violated tourists’ rights, but also tour guides’ rights,” said Tang.
“Many tour guides don’t get paid by travel agencies for accepting tourists. Even worse, they have to give the company money for introducing tourists to them.
“To live, many tour guides have to make money by taking commissions, which is forbidden by law.”
The guideline also urged travel agencies to take steps to make tour guides’ work safer and improve their training.
On May 1, a video of a guide venting her frustration on tourists for their failure to spend enough money at a jewelry shop triggered a heated discussion among netizens.
The guide, from Yunnan province, threatened to cancel the trip if each of the tourists did not spend 3,000 yuan ($480) to 4,000 yuan.
Zhang Guangrui, honorary director of the Tourism Research Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the root of the problem was the commission-based income system.
A tour guide who only wanted to be identified with the surname Lin, from Fuzhou, Fujian province, said for a long time, her income has relied heavily on tourists’ shopping, and sometimes her security cannot be guaranteed because the company will not get insurance for her.
“Our salary is composed of a basic salary, daily subsidiaries if we have a tour group to lead, and commissions,” said Lin, who has been a tour guide for nine years.
“My basic salary is around 800 yuan after deductions. To my knowledge, many tour guides in Yunnan, Hunan and Hainan provinces cannot get a basic salary. So the rest of my income relies on commission.
“Some tour groups don’t spend much, such as teachers and lawyers, and sometimes I cannot make ends meet by taking a travel group.”