Tourist be­hav­ior

Com­plaints surge about the mis­be­hav­ior of Chi­nese tourists, but have some peo­ple over­re­acted?

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By LI XIAOKUN in Bei­jing, LI XIANG in Paris CHEN JIA in Los An­ge­les, and ZHANG CHUNYAN in Lon­don Con­tact the writ­ers at lix­i­aokun@chi­nadaily.com.cn Wang Mingjie in Lon­don con­trib­uted to this story.

Re­cent mis­be­hav­ior by Chi­nese tourists over­seas has made head­lines around the world, with Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties writ­ing travel eti­quette into reg­u­la­tions to help trav­el­ers pre­pare for and re­spect other cul­tures.

Asked about the be­hav­ior of Chi­nese tour groups abroad, Kay Pop­ken, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of strat­egy and de­vel­op­ment in China at Ger­man air­line Lufthansa, was blunt.

“They tick off the sight­see­ing spots, take their pho­tos and then drive off to the next lo­ca­tion. Many seem mostly in­ter­ested in the shop­ping, of­ten for lux­ury items.

“Who among them is re­ally in­ter­ested in those Gothic cathe­drals and has been read­ing about them in prepa­ra­tion for the trip?”

In re­cent months, the mis­be­hav­ior of Chi­nese tourists abroad has been cov­ered by tra­di­tional and so­cial me­dia at home and over­seas, caus­ing much em­bar­rass­ment and soulsearch­ing in China.

Alert to the com­plaints, the cen­tral govern­ment has re­acted quickly and sought coun­ter­mea­sures.

In some of the more no­to­ri­ous in­ci­dents, two Chi­nese pas­sen­gers fought so hard on a flight from Zurich to Bei­jing that the plane was forced to re­turn.

In an­other case that made head­lines, a mid­dle school stu­dent carved his name on a 3,500-year-old Egyp­tian tem­ple.

And two groups of vis­i­tors brawled and fought in laven­der fields in France over where to stand to take pho­to­graphs.

Other be­hav­ior that has been crit­i­cized ranges from wast­ing food at buf­fets to re­fus­ing to wait in line and not leav­ing tips.

A For­eign Min­istry of­fi­cial, who de­clined to be named, said that about half of all cases han­dled by over­seas Chi­nese diplo­mats nowa­days are trig­gered by the in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­ior of Chi­nese cit­i­zens.

Wang Haidong, op­er­a­tional man­ager of Lon­don- based Yang Guang (Sun­shine) Hol­i­day Travel Agency, said Chi­nese tourists are in­clined to talk loudly in restau­rants, in a way that dis­turbs din­ers at nearby ta­bles.

They should learn to talk to each other and restau­rant em­ploy­ees in a re­spect­ful and

Chi­nese don’t need to be so self-crit­i­cal. In fact, the im­age of Chi­nese tourists nowa­days is not as bad as peo­ple think at home.”

CHEN CHAOYING FOUNDER AND MAN­AGER OF THE MAN­DARIN VOY­AGES TRAVEL AGENCY IN PARIS,

cour­te­ous man­ner, Wang said.

An as­sis­tant man­ager at Chanel in the Ga­leries Lafayette depart­ment store in Paris, who de­clined to give her name be­cause she is not au­tho­rized by the com­pany to comment, said: “Chi­nese cus­tomers are al­ways in a hurry and they want ev­ery­thing to be done very quickly.

“And some­times they are sus­pi­cious that we have raised the price and we have to as­sure them that we have not.”

In re­cent years, Chi­nese tourists have of­ten been listed as be­ing among the worst in the world. Thai­land’s The Univer­sal Daily News said on Aug 6 that loud Chi­nese vis­i­tors have been ham­per­ing the Thai tourism in­dus­try.

How­ever, some se­nior Western tourism pro­fes­sion­als say there is an ob­vi­ous rea­son for the surge in com­plaints about Chi­nese tourists and trou­bles with tour groups — there has been an un­prece­dented surge in the num­ber of Chi­nese trav­el­ing over­seas.

Other voices

Chi­nese cit­i­zens are ex­pected to make 94.3 mil­lion over­seas tours in 2013, a 15 per­cent year-on-year in­crease, mak­ing China the top coun­try of ori­gin for out­bound tourists.

The UN World Tourism Or­ga­ni­za­tion said Chi­nese tourists spent $102 bil­lion abroad in 2012, sur­pass­ing Ger­man and US trav­el­ers as the world’s top in­ter­na­tional spenders.

Tom Jenk­ins, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Euro­pean Tour Op­er­a­tors As­so­ci­a­tion, said, “When many (Chi­nese) peo­ple come, the be­hav­ior of one or two in­di­vid­u­als cre­ates head­lines, al­though 99.9 per­cent be­have beau­ti­fully.”

Dai Bin, head of the China Tourism Acad­emy, said dur­ing an on­line chat with In­ter­net users on Aug 13 that over the past decades China had grown from be­ing “a child” in the global tourism in­dus­try into the world’s largest source of out­bound tourists.

“A child sud­denly grows up and nat­u­rally at­tracts oth­ers’ at­ten­tion,” he said, adding that some peo­ple have over­re­acted to Chi­nese tourists’ mis­be­hav­ior.

“We should sep­a­rate cul­tural dif­fer­ences from il­le­gal con­duct. For in­stance, fight­ing on a plane is not al­lowed any­where.”

Chen Chaoying, founder and man­ager of the Man­darin Voy­ages Travel Agency in Paris, who has 20 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in the tourism in­dus­try, said: “Much of the be­hav­ior that is con­sid­ered un­civ­i­lized has to do with cul­tural dif­fer­ences. For ex­am­ple, speak­ing loudly is of­ten con­sid­ered rude in France, but for Chi­nese peo­ple it is nor­mal.

“Many Span­ish and Ital­ian tourists also speak loudly. It has to do with their per­son­al­i­ties and dif­fer­ent ways of liv­ing.

“Twenty years ago, most tourists from China were sent by the govern­ment. They wore sim­i­lar suits and shiny leather shoes. Now, Chi­nese tourists come from all kinds of back­grounds and they are dressed more ca­su­ally and have bet­ter in­ter­ac­tion with the lo­cal peo­ple and cul­tures.

“There is also a lot of crit­i­cism that Chi­nese tourists spend lav­ishly on lux­ury goods abroad. I think it is a mat­ter of per­sonal choice and freedom.”

Travel habits and con­sumer be­hav­ior will grad­u­ally change as out­bound tourism de­vel­ops, Chen added.

“Trav­el­ing is a process of per­sonal en­rich­ment and ed­u­ca­tion,” he said. “Chi­nese don’t need to be so self-crit­i­cal. In fact, the im­age of Chi­nese tourists nowa­days is not as bad as peo­ple think at home.

“They do love tak­ing pho­tos, but you will hardly find any Chi­nese tourists on the Champs El­y­sees in Paris who spit or talk loudly. And most of them re­ceive a very warm and friendly wel­come in the coun­tries they visit.”

Yet, in Au­gust, more than 2,500 com­ments were made about the mis­be­hav­ior of Chi­nese tourists over­seas on Sina. com.cn, a ma­jor Chi­nese news por­tal.

Most peo­ple said the Chi­nese should re­flect more about them­selves, the bot­tom line be­ing that a tourist should re­spect, not dis­turb, oth­ers.

Chang­ing habits

On Aug 6, Peo­ple’s Daily cited cases in­volv­ing China’s neigh­bors to ex­plain that im­prov­ing the be­hav­ior of out­bound tourists re­quires con­stant work.

It said that in the 1960s, Ja­panese vis­i­tors left a neg­a­tive im­pres­sion around the world. To solve the prob­lem, the Ja­panese govern­ment printed an eti­quette brochure, us­ing car­toons to teach cit­i­zens be­hav­ior such as not walk­ing in the street in slip­pers.

Sina.com.cn also said in a col­umn that in the 1990s many peo­ple from South Korea were em­bar­rassed by the be­hav­ior of some of their com­pa­tri­ots abroad.

The South Korean au­thor­i­ties later sug­gested all out­bound trav­el­ers from the coun­try take lessons on the cul­tures of the coun­tries they were to visit be­fore leav­ing.

In re­cent weeks, high-rank­ing Chi­nese of­fi­cials have called on cit­i­zens to be­have in a more civ­i­lized man­ner on over­seas trips.

On July 31, the China National Tourism Ad­min­is­tra­tion is­sued six no­tices about “civ­i­lized tourism” in one day. The doc­u­ments in­cluded a guide for out­bound tourists, which is soon ex­pected to be in­cluded in travel con­tracts. Tourists fail­ing to be­have well may be fined.

Some Chi­nese me­dia said the re­cent of­fi­cial moves are a third govern­ment at­tempt to im­prove Chi­nese peo­ple’s habits, fol­low­ing pre­vi­ous ef­forts in 1952 and 1981.

Will the sit­u­a­tion im­prove? Kay Pop­ken from Lufthansa thinks it will take time.

“The so­lu­tion lies in bet­ter prepa­ra­tion for ev­ery­one and in get­ting tourists gen­uinely in­ter­ested in a coun­try, its peo­ple and its cul­ture.”

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY GUILLERMO MUNRO / CHINA DAILY

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