Reporter Journal / Chang Jun

Chinese still have lessons to learn both as international hosts and tourists

By CHANG JUN (China Daily USA) Updated: 2015-10-13 03:54

Chinese consumers are a complicated group – they could be victims of unlawful tourism practices at home while their uncivilized behavior abroad has long been a headache for hosting countries and industries. There is still a long way for citizens of the world’s second-largest economy to learn more about their rights as consumers — and their responsibilities, too.

A national fury over a 38-yuan ($6) prawn scandal went viral last week. On Oct 4, a dining tourist ordered a dish of prawns for 38 RMB in an open-air seafood restaurant in Qingdao, Shandong province. Afterward, the tourist was billed $240 for the whole plate and was told the price was per prawn.

Although the tourist sought assistance from local authorities immediately and had called them to the spot twice, he was asked to pay a hefty sum to the restaurant because “it was only a price dispute”, as the officers concluded. Chinese still have lessons to learn both as international hosts and tourists

He then tweeted the incident on Chinese social media, attracting widespread attention among Chinese travelers similarly discontent about overpriced lodging and dining during holidays and on the government’s inaction. As calls for action mounted, the municipal government in Qingdao revoked the restaurant’s license and fined it 90,000 RMB ($14,160).

However, damage to the city’s tourism industry was profound, said Wu Junkai, a San Francisco-based artist originally from Shandong. “It has taken decades of efforts by Shandong and Qingdao to establish a friendly image of hospitality and sincerity; now everything has to be rebuilt. It won’t be easy to regain the public trust,” Wu said.

Internationally, many Chinese chose to observe the week-long holiday by flying to foreign countries and regions. Travel agencies including, China Youth Travel Service and all said bookings during the holiday had increased by 150 percent year-on-year.

Amid the boom, concerned Chinese embassies had issued notices reminding Chinese tourists to behave well and to respect local laws, regulations and customs. According to a security notice on its website, the Chinese Embassy in Canada asked Chinese tourists to dress appropriately, avoid arguments and to refrain from drawing graffiti. "When flights are delayed, tourists should do their best to understand and cooperate," the embassy said.

Meanwhile, a similar notice issued by the Chinese Embassy in Thailand said anyone traveling overseas with a condescending attitude would “ruin their own image”, and every Chinese tourist should represent China in a good way. “True patriotism means to respect other cultures and people as well as behave civilly,” the notice said.

Charles Lu, the owner of a travel agency in Los Angeles, said serving tourists from China sometimes can be difficult. "They speak loudly in public, carve characters on tourist attractions, cross the road when the traffic lights are still red, spit anywhere and carry out some other uncivilized behaviors,” Lu said, adding that the behaviors had tarnished the image of China as a whole and had a negative impact on Chinese tourists as a group.

In San Gabriel, California, a boutique hotel recently prepared notices in Chinese to remind guests of placing the curtain inside the bathtub when taking a shower and not to dump tea bags into toilet or sinks to avoid clogged drains and pipelines. Any violations would result in a $350 fine.

Asked whether the notice in Chinese is possible discrimination against a specific ethnic group, Meimei Ho, a hotel business owner, said it’s an act driven by urgency and geared toward protecting the hotel and its guests.

“Bath flooding did happen often after we received guests from China,” said Ho. “The after messes cost us a fortune in the past. We had to warn them beforehand to avoid accidents.”

In April, the China National Tourism Administration, the government tourism industry watchdog, started to keep records of bad behavior. So far, 11 incidents have been reported, and those on the government blacklist would have their credit affected and freedom of travel deprived for years.

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