Call for better services for tourists

Shanghai's tourism authorities plan to include bilingual services at the city's tourist information centers to meet demand.

Shanghai's tourism authorities plan to include bilingual services such as tour booking and souvenir sales at the city's tourist information centers, most of which only offer free maps and tourism information at present.

The city has more than 40 tourist information and service centers at airports, railway stations, hotels, tourist attractions and shopping plazas. They offer free multilingual maps and information on scenic spots, shopping, restaurants and tours.

"We have learned that there is big demand for such new services from both domestic and foreign tourists, and we plan to introduce tour packages ranging from one day to several days operated by licensed travel agencies at tourist information centers," Zhang Qi, deputy director of the Shanghai Tourism Administration, told Shanghai Daily.

"It will satisfy the demands of foreign independent tourists and curb tours operated by unlicensed travel agencies," he said.

Ma Chi, a political adviser from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, suggested the expansion of the function of tourist information centers.

"In big tourist cities overseas, information centers are easy to find and tourists are able to get everything there from booking hotels to buying subway tickets, railway tickets and scenic spot admission," Ma said.

"Some information centers in Shanghai such as the Wukang Road tourist information center in Xuhui District provide very good help to tourists and they boast Shanghai, but more are far from satisfactory," he said.

"Their functions are few, and staff are not enthusiastic," said Ma. At the Pudong and Hongqiao airports, tourists can only get simple traffic maps and details tourist attractions at tourist information service centers there.

Because tourist centers in the city are managed by tourism authorities, railway, airport and bus operators, hotels and scenic spots, there is no unified logo and uniform, Ma said.

A tourist center in Hongqiao Railway Station is operated by a travel agency and it is very commercial, while the Oriental Pearl TV Tower has two centers operated by different sides, said Ma.

In addition, the placing of such centers in the city is not reasonable, he said. On the Nanjing Rd E. pedestrian mall, only one center provides information services with the rest selling beverages and other products, and there is not even one such center on Huaihai Rd M., Ma said.

He suggested improvements because "visitor centers represent the window and name card of a city."

Unified and standard "visitor service centers" providing one-stop services to tourists should be set up at airports, railway stations, piers, star hotels and areas with large number of tourists, Ma said.

"Their services should include tour information, ticketing of scenic spots, performances, subway, buses and even Wi-Fi device rental and car rental," he said. "Moreover, staff at tourist centers should speak major foreign languages and wear unified uniforms."

He also suggested volunteers who can speak English at airports, railway stations, piers, star hotels and scenic spots to provide information to tourists after training. He also called for an intensified crackdown on illegal tour businesses near some information centers.

Training of staff at tourist information centers should be stepped up to raise their service awareness, Ma said.

In 2016, Shanghai received 8.5 million tourists, up 6 percent from a year earlier. Among them, 6.8 million stayed overnight in the city, a rise of 4 percent.

Top