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They mind your manners: tourist troubles

The Chinese are travelling more but also becoming notorious for rough behavior

12·17·2014

They mind your manners: tourist troubles

The Chinese are travelling more but also becoming notorious for rough behavior

12·17·2014

Chinese tourists made 98 million overseas trips last year, and the figure is expected to cross 116 million this year. Since the increase in the number of Chinese people traveling abroad has been astronomical over the past ten years, it’s no surprise that there is still that pesky minority of Chinese tourists behaving badly, and with the growth in tourists, so too have the bothersome ones multiplied. In a survey conducted by LivingSocial and Mandala Research two years ago, American tourists were ranked the world’s worst, followed by Chinese.
Evidently superpower rivalry comes in many forms.

There is no way to ensure that every traveler behaves properly, but when Mainland sightseers misbehave and forget their manners, they really go full out. The Chinese are traveling more but also becoming notorious for rough behavior. As a Huffington Post article wrote this week: “Bad Chinese Tourists Are Earning A Reputation As The New ‘Ugly Americans’.”

In hot water #NoodleGate

Arguably one of the most talked about stories this week has been the story of the Chinese traveler who scalded a flight attendant with hot water and noodles while her friend threatened to “blow up a plane”. The incident, involving four people, on a charter flight from Bangkok to Nanjing, was a result of the Chinese travelers being angered by their seating arrangements on a Thai AirAsia flight.

The shocking incident is expected to be taken seriously by the China National Tourism Administration who said the disruption “badly damaged the overall image of the Chinese people”. As the news of the incident quickly spread over the social network Weibo, nearly all netizen’s were disgusted and embarrassed and took to the site writing: “Talk about embarrassing, can we please be more civilized when going abroad! Just what kind of people are going abroad!” and “How do such people with such low characters manage to go abroad? China’s face [reputation] is all lost by these kinds of people.”

Speaking to China Daily the National Tourism Administration said the four young Chinese passengers had been fined and will have a bad credit record with the provincial tourism association.

Tagging tombs & pooing in Paris

Causing havoc on a plane is not the only way that the Chinese are leaving their mark on the world traveling stage. As we reported last year someone carved the words “Ding Jinhao was here,” into the 3,500-year-old Luxor Temple in Egypt. Even though the marks have already been cleaned up, there is still a lasting impression left on the rest of the world.

A tour guide surnamed Zhang told QQ that he “had never seen this sort of behavior from tourists,” and that “until recently, the Chinese tourists going to Egypt were relatively few, and their character was relatively good.”

“There’s a lot of this kind of uncivilized behavior out there,” said Zhang. “Take for example the sign outside the Louvre Museum, only in Chinese characters, that forbids people from urinating or defecating wherever they want.”

There is indeed a sign in Mandarin which tells visitors not to defecate in the surrounding grounds reports Quartz’s Gwynn Guilford and in another example of bad form a Chinese mother saw it fit to let her young boy urinate in a bottle in the middle of a Hong Kong restaurant.

While Chinese abroad have had their fair share of transgressions, it’s also worth nothing that tourist attractions on the mainland have come under fire too as foreign relics aren’t the only ones being defaced, as China Daily reported: “At tourist sites in China, it’s not rare to see people carving their names on ancient relics or climbing up walls or statues. Some have made a habit to jump queues to book tickets or get up on trains and planes. Tourists are known to leave behind tons of garbage as ‘souvenirs’ at the spots they visit.”

As the BBC’s Beijing correspondent Celia Hatton wrote last year:

Chinese people make an estimated 83 million trips outside China every year, so it is not a surprise that a minority sometimes clash with their foreign hosts. Just a few years ago only the richest people in China could afford to travel abroad but now millions of people from China’s second- and third-tier cities are applying for passports in order to gain their first glimpse of the outside world.

However, many in China also complain they are treated like second-class citizens abroad. Chinese internet forums were flooded with protests earlier this year when news emerged that a hotel in the Maldives had removed kettles from rooms occupied by Chinese tourists. Apparently, the hotel’s manager was upset that some Chinese tourists were using boiling water to eat instant noodles in their rooms, instead of spending money in the hotel’s restaurants.

In cities like Paris, Chinese tourists are most targeted by businesses seeking cash. Chinese visitors are thought to be particularly tempting because of a cultural preference for carrying cash over credit cards, the South China Morning Post reported.

A guidebook of behaviors 

To deal with the issues caused by “uncivilized behavior”, tourism officials last year even issued a detailed 64-page guidebook to steer even the newest of holidaymakers through the etiquette hazards of an overseas trip, as Vice Premier Wang Yang said in a statement at the time:

Improving the civilized quality of the citizens and building a good image of Chinese tourists are the obligations of governments at all levels and relevant agencies and companies (…) Guide tourists to conscientiously abide by public order and social ethics, respect local religious beliefs and customs, mind their speech and behavior (…) and protect the environment.

Soon China will become the single-largest source of international tourism while simultaneously possessing the largest domestic tourism market in the world. Already, the Chinese have surpassed Germans and Americans to become the world’s top international spenders, according to The U.N. World Tourism Organization, with a record $102 billion spent in 2012  thanks to a ferocious appetite for luxury goods (If you want to know more read our Luxury Without Borders blogs).

Article 14 of a new tourism law brought in last October even states: “Tourists shall observe public order and respect social morality in tourism activities, respect local customs, cultural traditions and religious beliefs, care for tourism resources, protect the ecological environment, and abide by the norms of civilized tourist behaviors.”

With the slew of reports about bad behavior its important to remember that the Chinese middle-class has grown at an unprecedented rate (from 1995 to 2005, the population of China’s middle class grew from close to zero in 1995 to an estimated 87 million in 2005) so travel is a relatively new thing for a majority of people leaving the Mainland. China’s travel industry is still in its infancy. Few domestic or foreign companies understand the needs of Chinese travelers, 95 percent of whom claim they are poorly served on both the domestic and international fronts.

So don’t jump to conclusions when you meet a Chinese traveler – let them learn and adapt to the great things that seeing the world has to offer. But it also has to be accepted that a tiny minority is ruining the fun for the majority and that not everyone has that “innate” sightseers knowledge that many of the world’s travelers think they possess.