Some scenic spots still make visitors pay through the nose despite the nation's new Toursm Law
In spite of China's new Tourism Law, which seeks to curb price hikes at scenic spots across the country, many famous sites are still able to get visitors to pay top dollar to gain entry.
The law, adopted by China's top legislature on April 25, outlined strict controls on the cost of tickets to enter scenic spots.
The National Development and Reform Commission published a list of more than 1,200 scenic spots lowering their entry fees during the May Day holiday from April 29 to May 1.
These scenic spots, where prices have fallen by around 20 percent, include 60 5A-level tourist attractions, the highest level, as well as 350 4A-level, and 800 3A-level sites.
However, the new policy, which is intended to attract more tourists, has received a muted response.
Ji Shubin, an accountant from Nanjing, said that she did not find the list to be very attractive.
The five spots on the list are all in the suburbs of Beijing, while well-known and must-see sites such as the Tian'anmen Rostrum and the Summer Palace are not included.
"Instead of going to places with discounts that I have no interest in, I would prefer to go to places I really like, regardless of the price," she added.
Some other sites on the list are only offering a discount after the end of the May Day holiday.
For example, Famen Temple, a well-known Buddhist place of worship in Shananxi province, lowered its ticket price from 120 yuan ($20) to 95 yuan, from May 2 to 4. And the scenic area in Zhangjiajie, Hunan province, which is famous for its beautiful forests and mountains, will cut ticket prices by 20 percent as required by the National Development and Reform Commission, but only from May 2 to May 7.
Zhan Dongmei, an expert from the China Tourism Academy, said this is an attempt to prevent overcrowding of the sites during public holidays, by encourageing people to visit at other times.
"But our vacation ends on May 1," Ji said. "I cannot ask for leave after the vacation."
Besides Famen Temple, a number of other well-known sites such as Huangshan Mountain, Jiuhua Mountain and Tianzhu Mountain use the same discount plan.
Emei Mountain, a well-known hiking spot in Sichuan province, lowered its ticket price from 185 yuan to 165 yuan, but a few months prior to this, it raised its peak season entry fee from 150 yuan to 185 yuan, and from 90 yuan to 110 yuan for the off-peak season.
Ding Yunyong, director of Zhangjiajie's tourism bureau, said it's not a good idea for scenic spots to lower ticket prices on peak days.
"If these places already receive a lot of visitors, then lowering the ticket price will only attract more, which in turn lowers the quality of service they can provide," he said.
"If a scenic spot lowers its ticket price on days when most people in the nation choose to travel, people will swarm to it."
Ding said the cost per person to travel for three days throughout Zhangjiajie's scenic area of 264 square kilometers was around 240 yuan, which he said was reasonable, since this includes traveling from one location to another.
In expert's eyes, lowering ticket prices at tourism sites, especially scenic and historic spots, is a tendency that the Tourism Law proposes.
"These sites mostly use public resources and should gradually lower their prices," Zhan said.
"However it is not practical for all sites, especially hotspots with mostly private investment, to lower ticket prices," she said.
"Reasons can include curbing visitor numbers and ensuring adequate economic benefits."
An expert who refused to be identified said that it's common that local governments rely on charging more for tickets to scenic areas.
"Where there is beautiful natural scenery there is usually a lagging economy. Tourism is almost the only industry that brings them significant financial benefits," the expert said.
"The central government should work out how to compensate these areas if they turn to developing other industries," he said.