Anxious travelers turn back to airlines

Passengers scared of rail travel have flocked back to airlines in the wake of Saturday’s Wenzhou high-speed train tragedy.

Local travel agents report  many travelers have canceled  train tickets in favor of flights, and many are buying additional travel insurance policies.

“The Wenzhou accident had a big effect on tourists’ choices for travel. Close to 80 percent of our clients have canceled their high-speed train route, with some shifting to flights these days,” a female manager at Beijing Youth Travel Service (BYTS) surnamed Xu told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Du Wenling, vice director of BTG International Travel & Tours also noted that though the summer vacation is usually peak travel season, there has been a 25 percent reduction in passengers booking high-speed train tickets to southern China this week compared to the beginning of this month.

“A group heading to East China canceled their trip by train this week,” Du noted.

An anonymous employee from the quality inspection department of BYTS also said  that a number of domestic tour groups had canceled their trips, which will have a huge impact on their business.

“Tourism is a specialty business which is under great influence from political situations and natural disasters,” she said.

Ctrip, China’s leading online travel booking company, has also seen a decline in bookings after launching their high-speed train ticket service on July 5.
“We haven’t done a specific assessment of the business decline after the accident, but there’s definitely an influence on the number of people booking high-speed trains from us,” said Ma Xing, director of Ctrip’s public relations department.

According to Ma, over 50 percent purchased travel accident insurance up to now this year, setting a record compared to the same period last year.

“Because of the series of accidents over the year, travelers have become more aware of getting travel accident insurances,” Ma said.

Zhou Yong, finance manager at China Comfort Travel Agency, confirmed that sales of travel insurance are up. “Previously, people often skipped the insurance to save money, especially when they traveled domestically. But in recent years, tourists show a stronger sense of being insured due to the frequent car and bus accidents,” he said.

China Comfort sells optional travel insurance for 30 yuan ($4.66) per person, with an indemnity value of 200,000 yuan, Zhou said.

According to a Xinhua report in November 2009, the National Tourism Administration strengthened travel agencies’ liability insurance to cover  “traffic accidents on travel and incidents of food poisoning,” with the minimum amount per person at least 200,000 yuan.

Global Times

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