China Will Hunt Down Tourists Who Behave Badly While Abroad

It used to be German package tourists who had a bad rep, people didn’t used to like to stay where those groups were in abundance.

In the last decade though it was “the Russians.”

Russians with new money traveling abroad and offending the sensibilities of both local customs and other travels has largely been supplanted, it seems, by Chinese. Chinese are now the world’s biggest spenders on travel.

Wherever I go, talking to locals in the tourism industry, I hear deep unpleasantness aimed at “the Chinese.” It’s felt so intensely that I’m practically looked upon as welcome despite Americans once being the scourge of other cultures.

Thailand has issued a good behavior guide for Chinese tourists visiting the country.

Now the government of China plans to keep records on its citizens who behave poorly in their travels.

“China’s image has already been tarnished,” the China National Tourism Administration said on its website.

The actions of badly behaved tourists has caused many people to “blush with shame” and people who behaved badly overseas needed to “learn a lesson”, it added. It did not specify the nature of any punishment.

Regulators would hunt out bad behaviour through tips from local tourism bureaus, media reports and the general public.

I really don’t think this is necessary, and it actually frightens me.

The ‘hated tourist’ moniker tends to be short-lived, with one group quickly replaced by another as a result of:

  • The economic cycle, already the Chinese economy appears to be slowing (and indeed, “when will China overtake America?” is far less asked now than it was just a few years ago though presumably that time is closer than it was a few years ago as Peter Thiel has observed).
  • Countries get used to new waves of tourists from different places.
  • Cultures become more mature as travelers.

So there’s both a convergence and a slowdown while other areas overtake the previous one in terms of xenophobic angst.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I don’t like that you call yourself a ‘thought leader.’ It seems odd for a self-appellation. I certainly consider you a thought leader.

    But I consider myself a genius and I don’t put THAT on my business cards…

  2. I would agree that this will pass altough it may take a while. I was in NZ recently and the otherwise incredibly friendly people really seemed unhappy about the Chinese visitors. From what I saw two things stood out. One, the Chinese for the most part travel in tour groups and don’t speak much English . The Kiwis dont get to interact with the Chinese but just see them as faceless groups littering, spitting and not following typical anglo/european behavioral norms. Whereas Americans tend to travel in small groups in NZ and, of course, speak English so they interact with the locals far more.

    Also, the Chinese who didn’t travel in groups but instead rented cars really caused concern. These mostly first generation drivers who are used to driving on the left in a congested city did not do well driving on the right in wide open country. They had evidently caused many fatal accidents over the Chinese New Year period and from what I saw I wouldnt want to share the road with them.

  3. First, totally agree with stvr… Bragging you are a thought leader? Frequent readers realize you are somewhat arrogant but that is pretty blatant.

    Second, the Chinese government pushing this is a great move. Just today in Luxembourg city I was cut off by two chinese having no regard for those around them. This happens all too frequently.

  4. stopped in Shanghai on the way to Kyoto, and a group of people maybe 30 of them were talking loudly, eating an apple and spitting into a bag below. One guy came in and sat on the table between the the seats. Since it was my first time going to Japan, I couldn’t believe they were Japanese.

    Then I heard “Nihao”.

    By the way, they don’t ask when the Chinese economy will take over the U.S. because it already has.

  5. Having spent time throughout China (western cities, more traditional cities, coastal cities, inland, down south, and up north) I can honestly say the bags are very mixed. I’ve seen some of the most disgusting and rude behavior (by western standards) and am rarely surprised by a ‘good gesture’ or an apology of any sort. The Chinese government needs to work on the general attitude of its population, rather than simply policing the rich elite who travel abroad.

    Rampant corruption at the airports, in the taxis, at the hotels, tourist sites, etc. is well known, and simply accepted by the officials. When the general attitude of a country is “we don’t need to treat you well while you’re here and don’t care if you come back –many others will come in right behind you” there is a more larger issue at hand.

  6. @Daniel M.
    Oops, I flipped the sides. China, like the USA, does drive on the right. NZ, like Great Britain, drives on the left.

  7. @Daniel M. Ummm no. Driving in China is most definitely on the left side. Except in Hong Kong, former British colony, on the right obviously. Google is your friend.

  8. Ouchhh. I hope your readers hire a driver & don’t rent cars when traveling in UK, NZ, China, or Hong Kong. Otherwise, too many wrong way wrecks.

  9. The world definitely belongs to ‘nouveaux riches’ from China these days. I was just in Budapest, yes, Budapest, for 5 days a week ago and by far the most visible groups of tourists were Chinese, even for breakfast in the restaurant at Hilton Budapest!

  10. “first generation drivers”? This can’t possibly be a thing.

    I feel bad for the poor guy in the bathroom at breakfast. Definitely not a classy move, but he’s just livin’. Alright, alright, alright.

  11. “China’s image has already been tarnished,” funniest thing Ive read all day ( so far)

  12. @Larry: You are an idiot. I lived in Beijing for over 3 years (as recently as last year), had a Chinese driver’s license even, and always drove on the right. Also, if you google “chinese drive on the right” the first 5 results will all confirm that Chinese drive on the right.

  13. Years ago, my uncle, a USN lifer, told me about driving in a Muslim part of eastern Africa. If a vehicle is coming at you in your lane, there’s a good chance the other driver is saying, “what Allah will” over and over.

    Don’t know happened in Crete, but by the mid ’80s, we (Army unit) were told renting a car was forbidden, along with leaving the island. The battery leaving, as we arrived, spend the morning attempting to help a Lt. find the keys he lost when he was shit faced.

  14. When talking what side people drive on, you need to specify “rught/left of the road” or “right/left of the car”. Different people seem to use one or the other. I suspect you are talking past each other.

  15. @ Tyler – how do you know they were Chinese if you were in Luxemburg? Just because they look Asian does not mean that they are Chinese, or from China for that matter, unless you have a racial bias. If two whites cut me off, would I conclude they were German?

  16. Having lived and driven in China, it’s not really a surprise to hear all the problems with Chinese tourists. It’s not that the Chinese are inherently bad, it’s just the way they are brought up. If you are in China, you will notice that people talk loudly, spit, do not honor personal space, drive wildly, and do not wait in line. On top of that, you have so many newly rich people with big ego, and government telling everyone how China is now more powerful than all the other countries, you get tourists that behave badly by western standards.

    Chinese government can track bad tourists, but it’s unlikely going to do much. The only way things will change is if the government spend more effort to teach people to respect others.

    Also keep in mind that it’s that all Chinese are badly behaved. If you go to Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Singapore, you will notice that Chinese there behave quite differently. It’s just that on Mainland China, people have become self-focused.

  17. Sorry, caught my own error in my previous post. I meant to say that “not” all Chinese are badly bahaved.

  18. @Scott – thankyou thankyou for your comment. I was wondering the same thing – right side of the road or of the car could shape the answer It’s certainly a provable point, but not worth the vitriol.

    It’s so disheartening to see :”youre an idiot” comments on a blog where we supposedly share interests. I’ll chalk it up as a generational thing. Anything else would be too dark.

  19. @ Larry: While Google is your friend, you’ll actually have to learn to read to use it. 😉

    On the Chinese mainland, you drive on the right just as you do in the U.S. Hong Kong is the opposite — they drive on the left as do people in the UK.

    Oh, and when we talk about which side people drive, we refer to which side of the road.

  20. The “first-generation drivers” description is indeed a thing, and very apt. Most Chinese drivers did not benefit from riding in their parents’ car during their formative years (as their parents likely did not own a car), so they did not absorb driving habits and practices in the way that many do in Western countries. Couple that with a cultural aversion to standing in line, and driving in China can be quite the adventure.

    I’m not sure if it’s required or if it just makes it easier, but most people take a driving course in order to get their license. However, the amount of practice you get during the course depends on whether your instructors like gifts, and how much you’re inclined to give them. A friend recently received her license, and she didn’t sit in the driver’s seat until the last day of her course, for 5 minutes. Miraculously, she has driven for a year now with no incidents, but I attribute that to the slow speed of city driving more than anything else.

  21. @Chris F – thank you so much for your post. It explains a lot. Far beyond the “left/right hand” discussion. Much appreciated.

  22. @Jeff-

    Maybe because they spoke mandarin… And since I lived in Shanghai for 4 months I can recognize it a mile away

  23. This government agency in charge of tracking down rude Chinese tourists abroad will be very busy! 😉

  24. @Tyler – when you say cut off, did you mean physically or were they in a vehicle? bc it sounded like you were cut off in traffic, which makes one wonder how you could detect their Mandarin, or Shanghainese for that matter…

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