Screengrab of the video shared below.


Footage filmed in China’s Yunnan province captures a tour guide berating tourists for not buying more souvenirs, as their frugal spending deprives her of the commission she earns on their purchases. This system allows her to compensate for the paltry salary she is paid by the travel agency, as they try to beat fierce competition by offering tours at rock-bottom prices.

"A tourist on the other bus bought a bracelet that cost between 30 to 40,000 yuans (about 4,300 to 5,700 euros)! He spent more than all of the people in this bus combined!" the guide yells at her customers after their stop at a jewellery store in a bus bringing them to Xishuangbanna. "If you keep on like this, the tour is going to be cancelled and you’ll have to work out how to get home on your own dime!" she threatens.

A tour guide lectures her customers, who she accuses of having not spent enough money in local shops.

After this incident, which occurred on April 12, the tourists complained to the travel agency, which apologised and compensated each person with 500 yuans (equivalent to roughly 72 euros) a week later. The tourism authorities in Yunnan province revoked the guide’s licence and suspended the activities of the travel agency she worked for. A few days ago, the woman admitted that she had acted impulsively in the heat of the moment.

A similar incident was reported by a tourist in Hong Kong last February. The tourist complained that his tour organisers had refused to bring customers to Disneyland unless they spent at least 5,000 Hong Kong dollars (roughly equivalent to 570 euros) in a jewellery shop.

For the past few years, Chinese travel agencies have been locked in fierce competition. In order to attract tourists, they advertise tours at prices so low that they sometimes don’t even make enough to cover their expenses (including the salary of the tour guide). Travel agencies often pay tour guides poorly — if they pay them at all. To compensate, many guides have started making deals with shopkeepers, bringing them tourists and then earning a commission on any purchases made.

These recent cases have sparked intense debates on the tourism industry among Chinese internet users. "No travel agency should force its customers to spend a minimum amount of money in a shop, no matter how much they charge for their tours," said one social media user.

"On the first weekend in May, tour guides from Dujiangyan and Qingchengshan in Sichuan province went on strike, boycotting travel agencies that pay poorly", said one tour guide from Chengdu, another city in Sichuan province. "Authorities need to prevent travel agents from offering cut-rate tours so that they actually pay the guides", he added.