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Friday, June 5, 2015, 08:59

Customers cancel cruises after disaster

By Cang Wei and Wang Xin

Some tour groups rattled by capsized ship switch to sightseeing on land; incident 'will influence market'

Many travelers have canceled or suspended cruises on the Yangtze River after the Eastern Star carrying 456 people capsized in severe weather on Monday night.

Huang He, general manager of Xiyanghong Travel Agency in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, said customers began to withdraw from booked tours on Tuesday morning.

"More than 400 customers booked our Yangtze River cruise tours in June and July," said Huang. "By Thursday, more than 50 had canceled, and we think more people will come to withdraw from their trips.

"Other travel agencies in Suzhou have complained about cancellations as well. We don't think the situation will change soon due to people's uncertainty about the weather and safety."

The Nanjing branch of Shanghai Xiehe Travel Agency, which organized the river excursion of the capsized Eastern Star, canceled its next cruise, which was to start on June 8. It said another trip set for June 17 might also be canceled.

Travel agencies in Changzhou, Wuxi and Zhenjiang have also canceled tours at the request of customers. One agency in Changzhou said it had to change river cruising to sightseeing on land for a group that started its tour on Monday at the travelers' insistence.

Zhou Xiaoping, head of the Jiangsu Tourism Bureau's information center, said cruises in the Yangtze are especially attractive to seniors.

"Compared with other means of travel, cruises are cheaper and more comfortable," Zhou said. "The seniors, who often have a lot of spare time, can enjoy the views without getting tired."

Zhou said the bureau has been working for years to make the Yangtze trip more attractive and comfortable, but the safety of the river remains a problem.

"The rainy season coincides with the beginning of summer," Zhou said. "And the bureau is working with other governmental departments to conduct safety checks on the ships in the Yangtze."

Li Kaoshan, general manager of Jinling Business Travel Agency, said because of the comforts cruises provide, the number of travelers has increased slightly in recent years.

"But the ship's being capsized by a tornado will influence the market," Li said.

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