In 2015, tourism in Thailand is expected to recover to boost the country’s long-suffering economy, according to a report released late December by Capital Economics, a macroeconomic advisory body.
Political turmoil has kept tourists away from Thailand over much of 2014, but a soaring number of Chinese travelers over the past two months may signal a rebound in Thailand’s tourist industry. As the largest share of arrivals in Thailand, Chinese tourists will continue playing a pivotal role in reviving the country’s economy that has been struggling since the coup d’état in May. According to the report, visitors from China spend around 10 percent higher than the average each day, making them the biggest spenders.
But Chinese visitors may not be that popular with Thai locals. Recently, a case of air rage involving Chinese tourists made headlines and prompted a barrage of condemnation and contempt. A female Chinese passenger onboard a budget Thai AirAsia flight from Bangkok to Nanjing scalded an attendant with noodles and hot water and her boyfriend even threatened to bomb the plane. Unhappy about their seating arrangements, they went berserk at the crewmember. This “noodle rage” was the latest in a series of cases involving ill-behaved Chinese visitors to Thailand.
Shortly before this incident, a flock of Chinese tourists pushed over a fence before a precious wall painting in the Grand Palace. They then brawled with working staff until they were told there was a closed circuit television.
And in February, 27 Chinese on a package tour squabbled over their seating arrangements at the resort island of Phuket and then ejected from their return flight.
It seems that Chinese tourists have become a headache for Thailand’s tourist industry. Their uncivilized behavior is widely circulated on social media and criticized by not only the public but also the authorities.
In actuality, ill-behaved Chinese tourists are not only found in Thailand. From a teenager scrawling his name on a 3,500-year-old stone carving in the Luxor Temple of Egypt to a group of tourists washing their feet at the Louvre in France, these misdemeanors have tarnished the image of the Chinese people. Perhaps in the eyes of locals, Chinese tourists are uncivilized country cousins, spitting and burping their way around tourist sites in flag-following packs.
But locals still pin hopes on Chinese to fuel their tourism and consequently economic development. China’s robust economic growth and expanding affluence during the past few decades have turned the metropolitan middle class into global tourists. China witnessed a staggering number of 97.3 million tourist departures in 2013 only, becoming the world’s largest tourist exporter.
The rest of the world has been racking their brains to woo valuable Chinese in various ways. Thailand waived visa fees for Chinese tourists for three months from August. Harrods, a UK luxury department store, has accepted China’s main credit cards since April 2012. Canada now recruits Chinese or Chinese-speaking ski instructors.
Tourist destinations around the globe are falling all over themselves to attract Chinese to invigorate their economy but meanwhile complaining a lot about the terrible behavior of some Chinese tourists. Generally they have developed mixed feelings toward Chinese tourists.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that loutish Chinese tourists only represent a minority. Most Chinese traveling overseas are well-mannered, but undramatic behavior wins no media coverage.
With increasing purchasing power, more and more Chinese people choose to go abroad in package tours and not all of them are courteous and civilized, which seems to be an inevitable phenomenon during the current development period. The US middle class were once considered noisy, arrogant and boorish when they first began to travel in Europe decades ago.
But Chinese authorities, media and public opinion seem to have lost patience with rude tourists with a frenzy of harsh criticism and a wide spectrum of countermeasures. When on a state visit to the Maldives in September, Chinese President Xi Jinping told his fellow citizens not to damage coral reefs and litter water bottles, further encouraging Chinese tourists to behave themselves while traveling abroad.
Let’s hope that Chinese tourists will soon get a new image (some are already working on it) in the eyes of locals in tourist destinations and be welcomed with heartfelt smiles.
Learn more in our Global Ready China Seminars
- Chinese tourists have the money, but not the manners @ SCMP (2014-12-31)
- Chinese passenger’s first aid to Thai steward wins intl applause @ ECNS (2015-01-04)