Image credit: @scalino.
You know you’ve reached the international big time as a country when snooty Europeans start complaining about your “crass” or “vulgar” citizens swarming all over their landmarks. Chinese tourists may have recently been voted “the second-worst behaved in the world, after Americans”, but countries are still falling over themselves to get some of that crass Chinese money.
Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore, editor of Time Out Beijing, writes in the New York Times:
On Monday, I boarded a plane from Rome to Beijing packed with Chinese tour groups returning from their Golden Week vacations in Europe. After sun-drenched, insouciant Italy, the rowdy cabin was a shock.
Turning to a Chinese tour guide on my right, I asked whether his charges had enjoyed Rome’s grand churches. “Churches?” he repeated, surprised. He pointed to overflowing duty-free bags around us. “Trust me, they don’t like churches. They only want to shop!” On a brief visit to Paris earlier on the trip, the group had spent over four hours at Galeries Lafayette, the famous department store.
In 2011, 70 million Chinese traveled abroad, and the World Tourism Organization estimates that the figure will surge to 100 million by 2020. Nine of the 10 hottest destinations were within Asia (the United States was the exception), topped by Hong Kong, according to the China Tourism Academy. Chinese spent $47 billion on their bank cards abroad in 2011 — two-thirds more than the previous year. In Europe, hotels, luxury shops and department stores are hiring staff who speak Mandarin to lure in Chinese customers.
Europeans may complain about the habits of Chinese tourists, particularly spitting, but it shouldn’t worry Chinese back home. As a continent we’ve been shaking our heads in disgust at American visitors for decades, it hasn’t stopped them coming or made their money any less desired.
Last year, over 900,000 Chinese tourists visited France alone, and the number is predicted to quadruple in the next decade. The British government is considering easing visa restrictions and increasing direct flights in the hope of trebling the number of Chinese tourists to Britain in just three years.
Chinese tourists may be loud. And they may prefer splashing their cash on Chanel to visiting cathedrals. But in these troubled economic times, that’s hardly a bad thing.
As Sebag-Montefiore says, “bless the crass Chinese tourist”.
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