Many Chinese tourists on a learning curve

By Victor Paul Borg
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, February 9, 2015
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Chinese tourists play in front of Notre-Dame de Paris. Data suggest a record number of them chose to travel abroad during this year's Spring Festival. [China Daily]

As the number of Chinese travelers taking trips abroad is projected to be greater than those travelling domestically during the upcoming Spring festival, we are likely to hear more about the antics of some Chinese tourists abroad in the media this year. Last year’s high-profile incidents were aptly put into perspective by most media outlets – the few outrageous incidents were hardly representative of Chinese tourists overall given more than 100 million Chinese traveled abroad last year. But Chinese tourists can expect more scrutiny simply because they are a relatively new phenomenon.

Another reason for the visibility of Chinese tourists, especially in some countries in Asia, where their numbers have become substantial, is that a greater proportion of Chinese compared to travelers from most other countries travel in groups. A propensity to travel in tour groups is partly due to time-restrictions (most employees can only take their holidays during specific times of the year such as the Lunar New Year “shutdown”) and partly due to inexperience or timidity – most Chinese are unable to speak English, many are on their first trip abroad. So these new tourists feel safer in groups. But groups of like-minded compatriots tend to become a gaggle, raucous, boisterous, and oblivious to their hosts’ finer sensitivities.

This is not much different than groups of tourists of other nationalities, and when I hear in Thailand – where I am writing this from – the lament that Chinese groups can be loud and socially inept, it reminds me of the place where I grew up, in a Mediterranean island, where groups of Germans or English also behaved with loutish offensiveness when I was young. It’s not only certain types of Chinese who are oblivious to cultural sensitivities, although this doesn’t of course excuse any Chinese – or other national – from bad behavior.

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