China Focus: China eager to change tarnished image of tourists
BEIJING, (Xinhua) -- Hua Juanpeng was reading online advice about tipping customs and religious taboos in preparation for his trip to Thailand, scheduled for the upcoming National Day holiday that starts on Oct. 1.
"Without a tipping culture, we're not used to the idea of giving tips to service staff in China," Hua said. "I looked up the information because I certainly don't want to be seen as an impolite Chinese traveler overseas."
As China's travelers have become the largest tourist market in the world, bashing of ill-behaved Chinese visitors has been reported frequently, prompting authorities and the private sector to take initiative to change the tarnished image of Chinese tourists.
This will not be Hua's first time abroad. The 24-year-old college student has visited Dubai and other popular spots overseas, and his trips have made the travel buff much more aware of his compatriots' behavior overseas.
"I felt ashamed when I saw Chinese tourists talking loudly in public places, spitting, or carving characters on items in scenic spots," Hua said.
Continual media exposure of "uncivilized" acts by Chinese vacationers has concerned authorities. Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang in May acknowledged that "uncivilized behavior" abroad harms the country's image.
Wang urged efforts to project a good image of Chinese tourists as the country's tourist industry is in its "golden phase of development with vast potential."
China's spending on travel abroad totaled 102 billion U.S. dollars in 2012, making the country the largest contributor to the tourism industry worldwide, according to figures by the World Tourism Organization.
The number of international trips by Chinese tourists has grown to 83 million in 2012 from 10 million in 2000, according to the organization.
The fast-growing but flawed tourism industry prompted the birth of China's first tourism law, which requires domestic visitors to behave in a "civilized" manner. It will go into effect on Oct. 1.
In addition to strengthened legal restraint, local tourism regulators have also taken a set of measures to urge Chinese people to behave when leaving home to see the world.
Travel agencies are required to give orientations to educate clients about the destination country and its culture ahead of trips, said Chen Shaoqing, official with the tourism administration in north China's Shanxi Province.
Tourist behavior in foreign countries is one factor in the assessment of travel agents and agencies, Chen added.
In central China's Hunan Province, the local tourism regulator launched an official website on Sept. 1 to reveal a "blacklist" of vacationers who have been reported by travel agencies for their poor behavior abroad. The exposed clients will face punishment such as visa refusal when planning future trips abroad.
In addition to efforts by the Chinese government, the private sector is also taking action to help Chinese tourists improve their image overseas.
China Travel Solution, a travel agency headquartered in Beijing, will hand out cartoon-filled brochures reminding clients to queue in an orderly fashion, and not to shout or waste food. The pamphlet also warns against gambling and drugs.
Tour guides should behave themselves and set a good example for customers, said Niu Gang, vice general manager of Shanxi Business International Travel Service.
"There is still a long way to go for domestic tourists to act orderly and project a good image abroad," Niu said.