Record number of Chinese enjoy festival overseas

Updated: 2014-02-07 07:59

By Fu Jing in Brussels, Zhang Chunyan in London and Li Xiang in Paris (China Daily)

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A new trend

An increasing number of Chinese see overseas travel as a fashionable way to celebrate Spring Festival, according to Kevin Shao of Omega Travel, one of the UK's leading travel agencies.

"Compared with last year, the number of Chinese visitors rose by 30 percent during Spring Festival," Shao said, adding that the peak time is the first week of the new lunar year.

Record number of Chinese enjoy festival overseas

Celebrating the Spring Festival in downtown Lisbon, capital of Portugal, overseas Chinese keep tradition alive. Zhang Liyun / Xinhua

Travel as a family or as several families in a group has been an important new trend this year. Groups such as this prefer to design the travel routes and choose the hotels themselves, rather than use an agency to do it, he said, adding that Chinese visitors usually have some knowledge of the UK or have done a lot of homework before traveling, which provides greater flexibility and self-determination.

Having gained a taste for British culture via TV, movies and books, Chinese tourists are mainly interested in museums, palaces, castles and the ancient universities. London, Oxford, Cambridge, Bath, York and Edinburgh are the most popular destinations, according to industry insiders.

Beth McKillop, deputy director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, said, "We monitor which collections the Chinese visitors view during their visit as part of a 'rest of the world' category, which also includes Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South America and Africa. The top four V&A collections visited by this group are currently sculpture, fashion and textiles, medieval and Renaissance, and jewelry," she said.

In 1991, the V&A became the first European museum to feature bilingual captions (English and Chinese), which were installed in the T. T. Tsui Gallery of Chinese Art. The museum also has an active Chinese community program with a particular focus on the Chinese New Year and mid-Autumn festivals.

Because British TV dramas such as Downton Abbey and Sherlock, plus the Harry Potter movies and books, have captured the imaginations of a huge number of people in China, many tourists want to visit the locations or studios when they visit the UK, according to Chen Wei, who has worked as a travel guide in Britain for 10 years.

Educated, aspiring Chinese viewers find these dramas compelling viewing and believe they provide insights into the British way of life, he said.

Tom Jenkins, executive director of the European Tour Operators Association, said, "Chinese visitors appear to be exceptionally well behaved and increasingly sophisticated in their appreciation of Western culture."

Last year, insensitive behavior by a few Chinese tourists - such as the 15-year-old who defaced a sculpture in the ancient temple at Luxor in Egypt - made headlines around the world, and led to the Chinese authorities writing travel etiquette into the regulations to help travelers prepare for, and respect, other cultures.