What are the Chinese doing to the friendly skies? (Photo: Thinkstock)
After years of chiding its tourists to behave better overseas, China is in full “this-is-why-we-can’t-have-nice-things” lecture mode. Now, Beijing is taking another step in making sure its citizens watch themselves when they travel.
China’s tourism agency just announced it’s going to start keeping records of “uncivilized” behavior by its tourists for up to two years. According to Reuters, the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) says badly behaved Chinese tourists have “tarnished” China’s image and caused the nation to “blush with shame.” The tourist offenders, says the agency, need to “learn a lesson.”
An example of the bad behavior the CNTA was talking about: an in-flight brawl on an Air China flight (Photo: Twitter)
China People’s Daily reports, the CNTA will be keeping tabs on such transgressions as “violating order on public transportation — including flights — damaging public facilities or historical relics, ignoring social customs at tourism destinations, and becoming involved with gambling or prostitution.”
Reuters says China’s new naughty list would derive from “tips from local tourism bureaus, media reports, and the general public.” The CNTA says violators, in some cases, could be handed over to the authorities.
The strict policy change is a response to recent international headlines, which have been full of stories of ill behaved Chinese tourists Clark Griswolding their way through vacation misadventures within China and overseas:
In January, police in southwestern China detained a group of tourists after one of them actually opened the emergency exit doors on their plane as it was pushing off from the terminal. The group reportedly was upset about the plane’s long delay.
Last December, a crying baby led to a mid-flight brawl between three women during an Air China Flight.
Also in December, a Chinese woman on an AirAsia flight from Bangkok to China apparently threw a cup of hot noodles on a flight attendant as her travel companion threatened to blow up the plane.
In 2013, a Chinese teenager scratched his name on the wall of an ancient temple in Egypt.
Last December, a Chinese tourist opened an emergency door, deploying the plane’s escape chute, because he didn’t want to wait to get off the plane. (Photo: Daily Mail)
“Much of the complaints aimed at Chinese tourists is due to cultural awareness gaps and lack of preparation and education,” says ChinaContact’s Roy Graff, an expert on Chinese tourism and author of the upcoming book, “China — the Future of Travel.”
“I would argue that other nationalities’ tourists are also guilty of bad behavior,” says Graff, “but now the media attention is all on China as it is the largest source of tourists.” (Attract China estimates 140 million Chinese tourists are expected to go abroad this year.)
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As the headlines got more embarrassing and more outrageous, so have China’s efforts to stop the madness. China’s vice premier and even its president have publicly asked China’s tourists to refrain from littering, spitting, loud talking, and other transgressions that have earned the ire of their international hosts.
And then there are the lists. In addition to the “bad traveler” list China’s tourism agency is adopting, the nation’s Civil Aviation Administration is said to be mulling over a special “no fly list” of its own. Instead of terrorists, this list would consist of bad fliers.
A Chinese woman’s alleged hot noodle attack against an AirAsia flight attendant made international news. (Photo: CEN)
But when all is said and done, a list is just a list. Would the threat of having their names written down somewhere be enough to make tourists watch themselves overseas?
“It’s more designed as a deterrent,” says Graff, adding increased media attention on traveler malfeasance in China may get the desired message across.
Dr. Jingjing Yang, a tourism development lecturer at the UK’s University of Surrey, agrees. “Chinese people are highly concerned about their ‘mianzi’ — their ‘face,’” she says. “Therefore being recorded into the ’black list’ is absolutely a shame for them.”
So far, though, the shame of making international news for bad behavior hasn’t been enough to curb it. (And it certainly hasn’t worked in the United States, where we’ve had our own embarrassing mishaps overseas.) Now it’s a matter of seeing what happens first: Chinese tourists clean up their acts, or the Chinese government takes even more drastic measures to make them do it.