Catching the Chinese Tourist Buck

chinese tourist scalds thai flight attendant

Chinese citizens were not allowed to travel to foreign countries until recently. With their growing amount of disposable income they are able to visit countries they previously could only dream about. Tourism makes up 9% of the global GDP. In 2012 the Chinese overtook Americans as the number one tourist spenders in the world. In 2012 they spent $102 billion (http://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2013/dec/22/chinese-tourism-changing-the-world). That is a lot of money and countries around the world are keen to get some of this cash.

The British are looking to simplify the visa process for Chinese tourists. The Thai government is always altering their visa regulations in favour of Chinese tourists. Other countries are no doubt employing similar tactics.

Yet Chinese tourism is not without its problems. In December 2014 a flight between Nanjing and Bangkok was forced to turn around after Chinese passengers threw hot water and noodles over a cabin attendant. The incident was picked up by an outraged Thai state media that wrote ‘They behaved like barbarians’. This is ironic as traditionally, those not from the Middle Kingdom, were labelled as ‘barbarians’. The news story highlights the growing number of stereotypes that have attached themselves to Chinese tourists. The rest of the world is just starting to encounter the Chinese outside of a Chinese restaurant milieu and are branding Chinese as rude, loud, impolite and mono-lingual. They are some of the least liked tourists even though they spend money.

As with other Far East Asian countries, the Chinese tend to go on package tours. These tours herd people around Buddhist temples and street markets. Typically Chinese are looking for a good deal. Thailand is an ideal destination because it is only a short airplane journey away. Moreover, there are lots of Thais with Chinese ethnicity in Thailand. There is no shortage of Chinese restaurants, Buddhist temples and fake watches on sale. As well as Bangkok, Tawaen Beach near Pattaya is the main spot for Chinese tourism in Thailand.

One useful comparison can be to look at how Japanese tourism has developed. They too move in packs and conform to stereotypes. Yet, with each new generation leaving its shores behaviour changes. More can speak some English; more travel independently; more start following backpacker trails. There is a growing number of Japanese now to be spotted at Haad Rin’s Full Moon Party and the Bantai parties in Koh Phangan. This will surely happen to the Chinese. They will throw off their group behaviours and participate in a greater diversity of tourist activities. In short individualism will eventually rear its head. The Chinese tourist buck will then be harder to attract with phony attractions and visa lures.

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