A group of Chinese tourists returning from Thailand became so agitated over seating arrangements that they have been shamed by China’s tourism authorities for damaging “the overall image of the Chinese people.”
On a Thai AirAsia flight to Nanjing, China, from Bangkok on Thursday, four tourists became enraged after flight attendants told them they could not sit together. The temporary separation, it appears, was too much to bear. The argument quickly escalated, with a woman in the group throwing hot water and instant noodles at a flight attendant.
In a video taken by a fellow passenger, another member of the group, a man wearing a gray T-shirt, is standing in the aisle and yelling that he will “bomb the plane.” His remarks draw more giggles than gasps from the other passengers.
The dispute caused the pilot to turn the flight around midair and return to Bangkok, where the Thai police escorted the four off the plane. The Chinese government has not released the identities of the travelers, who were part of a tour group.
In a statement issued on Saturday, the China National Tourism Administration criticized the four passengers for their “uncivilized behavior” and said it would record their bad behavior. The government body also plans to punish the travel agency that arranged the trip and the leader of the tour group for failing to fulfill their “responsibility to lead civilized tourism.”
Buoyed by rising incomes, more Chinese citizens are venturing abroad for the first time to enjoy Thai beaches, shopping in Parisand the picturesque hills of New Zealand. Chinese tourists have gained a reputation for splurging on designer goods while abroad, leading some retailers to hire Mandarin-speaking staff to cater to them. Some countries are also streamlining their visa processes in the hopes of attracting Chinese tourists. In Britain, the government’s “China Welcome” campaign, which began last spring, aims to make the island nation “the most welcoming destination in Europe for Chinese visitors.”
But Chinese tourists have also gained a reputation for having poor manners. In recent years, a number of stories of Chinese tourists behaving badly have caused concern abroad and embarrassment at home.
Last year, members of a Chinese tour group made headlines when they pocketed stainless-steel cutlery from a Singapore Airlines flight, initially refusing to return them. In another incident last year, two Chinese men started brawling in a field of lavender in France after an argument over photography locations.
A Chinese passenger on the Thai AirAsia flight who recorded the video can be heard saying that she would post it online because the man in the gray T-shirt was “just too ill-mannered.”
Given the numbers of China’s outbound tourists — 97 million in 2013, compared with 62 million outbound American tourists in the same year — the Chinese authorities have become increasingly worried that the rudeness exhibited by some will damage the so-called soft power that Beijing craves.
Last year, China Central Television, the official broadcaster,prominently aired a five-day series of educational videos on correct behavior for tourists. The country has also implemented a tourism law by which travelers are legally bound to respect local traditions and exhibit good behavior while abroad.
As a consequence of this incident, China travel agents are now challenged to keep tourists under control.
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- “They behaved like barbarians” @ SCMP (2014-12-18)
- Chinese passengers chastised for brawl on Thai flight @ SCMP (2014-12-18)