This is not the best afternoon to enjoy the view from the top of the observation tower in Pattaya, Thailand. The sky is stormy and the sea is a uniform shade of sludge. Shun-Wen Tong, a 22 year old student from the Chinese city of Hangzhou, cranes his neck to look at the city 54 floors below: Hotel concrete blocks, heartbeat traffic and directly below it, half hidden in the tropical darkness, an amusement park called Funny Land.
Time off season is just bad things about Pattaya - known resort of many as "Blackpool of Thailand", it is two hours outside Bangkok - but Tong savor every moment. "It's magic. I am very happy," he said, holding his camera in one hand and a free orange juice in the other. "Finally I see the world."
first trip abroad ever.For him, it is an experience that changes the pulsating life. But for the rest of the world, it is not just any tourist. This is a Chinese tourist - it's a global phenomenon, an irreversible trend, a lucrative opportunity. International travel has been growing among the Chinese during the last decade, with increased prosperity at home and the relaxation of travel restrictions of the communist government. Now millions are on the move. "Chinese tourism," said CNN breath in April, "could be the biggest phenomenon to hit the global travel industry since the invention of commercial flight."
Chinese Tourists more than GermansIn 2012, the Chinese and the Germans reached Americans as the largest consumers of international tourism in the world, about 83m from traveling abroad and spending $ 102bn. In early 2015, according to the United Nations World Tourism, Chinese globetrotters have over 100m trips abroad. In 2020, this figure will double to an incredible 200m. In Thailand, the number of Chinese tourists jumped 107% this year, prompting Bangkok to London to become the most visited city in the world in the latest MasterCard survey.
A crowd of Chinese tourists applaud during the show of elephants, where the animals perform stunts such as football and painting, Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden in Pattaya. Photo: Nana Chen for the observer Everyone is scrambling for a share of the spoils. In October, the UK government announced plans to simplify visa procedures for UK nationals from China, with the goal of tripling Chinese tourists to Britain in 2015. India launched Life Chinese language Pi Tours after the film was a box office in China, while Greece is promoting "honeymoon idyllic island" for the Chinese market. Even the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe is currently trying to negotiate a "prime tourist pact" with Beijing - despite diplomatic strains last year after police outside Harare arrested four Chinese migrant workers to have killed and eaten rare turtles.
With the proliferation numbers came the predictable feeling, but most of misplaced time that Chinese travelers have taken over as new Americans "ugly" tourists of the world. The trend for independent travel is strongly on the rise, especially among young Chinese. But nearly half of all Chinese tourists always travel in organized groups - a factor that increases visibility and boost their collective stereotypes and cultural ignorance on both sides.
Many reports that Chinese tourists are loud and rude, or refuse to queue or give advice. Other complaints range from the practical to the surreal. In July, the inhabitants of the small Swiss town of Lucerne protested that up to 120 buses of Chinese tourists per day were paralyzed local traffic as they filed tourists who wanted to buy luxury watches. Then there was the bizarre reports received by the Chinese media, to compete with Chinese newlyweds fights in French lavender fields on the best place for pictures to capture a "moment Monet". A group of traveling to Korea North drew scorn to throw candy to children as if they were "Feeding the ducks', while a number of Chinese tourists in the Maldives have been taken to give white wedding documents for high-end resorts in order to get free dinners offered to honeymooners.
Honeymoon in Thailand
Yet the fact that these stories make headlines appears to reflect the current hypersensitivity to the Chinese attitude abroad more than anything else. In a recent survey lifestyle site LivingSocial, Americans were still rated the least popular five countries foreign tourists, including, significantly, by the Americans themselves. British and Germans have hardly done better.
An elderly woman fans herself among other Chinese tourists. She had a whole hive for the duration of their stay. Photo: Nana Chen for the observer Thailand is at the tip of the arrow. With its mix of temples, beaches and duty-free shops, the "land of smiles" supposedly is the most popular destination for Chinese tourists after Chinese territories satellites Hong Kong and Macao. Tong is visiting Thailand with 35 others from Hangzhou city in southeastern China, including his young grandparents looking on a tour organized seven days. The tour costs £ 500 each, including flights. "I wanted to come here to see elephants and Buddha statues. It is a holy place, "he said. "But my family has chosen mainly because it is only a flight from China to four hours and we got a good deal." Pattaya is on the route of the Chinese tour almost every group. A former fishing village, it grew into a tourist playground during the Vietnam War, when US forces on R & R found its palm-fringed bay while virgin. Girly bars, theme parks and golf courses rapidly multiplied. Today it attracts about 8 million tourists per year, over a million of China. Yet Chinese tourists are curiously absent from the bustling city center and the main beaches. They are not hard to find once you know where to look. Parking jammed with coaches signal the massive presence of tour groups in many shows of elephants in Pattaya, crocodiles and snakes farms, Ladyboy cabarets and outlet malls. In Thailand, the proportion of Chinese tourists traveling in groups is 70%. Most visits are conducted in a standalone attraction to another, stopping only for lunch in Chinese restaurants (eating Thai food is generally a separate activity) before returning in the evening to their high-rise hotels. He left the Russians - the other great influx of tourists in recent years - to play chicken in the main bay screaming jet skis and haggle with the vendors on the beach sarongs polyester price.
Tiger ZooAt Sriracha Tiger Zoo, which sees around 2,000 Chinese tourists per day, visitors can pose for pictures with one of the 400 tigers kept in dusty paddock. They can also "take advantage of the intelligence of pigs in the show pig" or shoot targets with air guns to the fall of meat in feeding troughs in the shooting RSS Tiger Arena 'N '. The zoo has existed for years amid controversy over whether the docile tigers are drugged or beaten, as well as its policy of racial stereotypes of hiring Africans to pose in loincloths - but Chinese tourists on a schedule not have time to think about it all.
Life is a cabaret, a group of katoeys or ladyboys, poses with two Chinese tourists. Photo: Nana Chen for the observer Shu-Hsuan Chi and Wu Tzu-Chen, both in their 60's, are scuttling a tiger-feeding session. The two women in the northern port city of Dalian have worked in the same store. They celebrate their retirement with a 10-day tour of Japan, Korea and Thailand. Pattaya is their last stop. "We have no economic problems in China today and free time to travel," said Wu. She wears a beehive hairstyle she had specifically "to last the whole trip" to avoid having to visit a foreign show. "It was tiring but enjoyable. We have many things to tell our family and friends when we get back home. "
What Chinese tourists thinkAnother tourist, real estate developer 40 Min to the central province of Henan, also said he'll have plenty to talk about when he returns. But most of it will not be positive. "This is the first and last time I'll leave China," he said. He came from overseas "curiosity" but think Thailand is inefficient and far more dangerous than China. "Also, the local food smells and flavor is wrong. It is not suitable for Chinese people," said the burly bald man.
The Chinese travel boom is similar to previous waves of mass tourism among newly wealthy middle classes. Thomas Cook essentially invented the package tour in the 1850s when he began taking British industrial groups in two weeks "large circular towers" of Europe, triggering a new leisure activity among the wealthy (who also grumbled about exotic foods). Americans followed with their loud voices and leisure harder abundant in the 1950s. Then came the Japanese, with their sun hats and cameras in the "bubble economy" for years 1970s and 80s.
A major difference today is that the travel industry worldwide is much more developed and finely tuned to maximize profits. Provide "attractions" endless and services to attract tourists is now huge business, with tourism currently valued at 9% of global GDP. (The World armament industry, random hand, is valued at 2.5%.) Even when tourists do not travel in groups, fewer than Chinese do as time goes on, it is not easier for countries to find the right balance between outlawing their activities and allowing them to discover places for themselves.
A marketing officer at the Tourism Authority of Thailand, admits as much: "We want visitors to authentic experiences of our culture and people, but it is not always possible because of the way the industry works. "
Chinese tourists excluded of UKChinese tourism has been slow to take off in the UK in part because Britain is not included in the Schengen program that allows travelers to visit most of Europe with a single visa - hence the George Osborne recently announced simplified visas. Only about 200,000 Chinese tourists visited Britain in 2012, while 1.4 million visited France.
No effort is spared to promote British charms. In September, British Airways has launched its new direct flight between the western Chinese Chengdu hub at Heathrow by staging a surprise "Chinese panda flashmob dance" in a shopping center in Chengdu. About 50 people in panda costume were hired to stir disco music in a context Union Jack, some of them apparently dressed as famous British pandas such as David Beckham, Sherlock Holmes and Harry Potter. There was even a panda Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with a baby panda George.
dancing pandas will not solve everything. Take Barnsley, for example. South Yorkshire The town is the birthplace of James Hudson Taylor, a missionary widely credited with the introduction of Christianity in China in the 1850s Some residents believe Barnsley could attract millions of Chinese pilgrims - there are about 70 million Christians China - and even become. "New Bethlehem" In August, however, the Barnsley Chronicle reported that a Beijing woman who has come to assess the potential of the city said that Chinese investors were "disappointed" with its conclusions. "Chinese Visitors like midnight races, karaoke and massage, no bars and drink," said 58-year Mary Him the newspaper. "But they can not find it here in Barnsley."
He suggested the city should consider opening a shopping center 24 hours, an "authentic" Chinese restaurant and a health center. But who is to say that the Christian spirit Chinese do not find some redeeming features Barnsley as it is? What investors really complain, it seems, is that there are not enough large commercial companies to make money from an influx of tourists. Wolfgang Georg Arlt of China Outbound Tourism Research Institute said investigations and inside China web forums repeatedly show that modern tourists are "more open". China and the West, he said, would do well to stop the use of stereotypes and find out what people really like.
Such a stereotype of Chinese tourists as commercial obsessed buying the luxury shops of content. Many Chinese are buying luxury goods abroad - in the coming year, they should buy more luxury goods than all other nationalities combined. With the usual ambitious love status symbols, rights of up to 60% on these products at home partly explain the phenomenon.
PattayaBack to Pattaya, Angela Wu guide says shopping is rarely the sole reason for a trip abroad. Wu, 45, a native of Shanghai, is the chain-smoking in the lobby cabaret transvestite Miss Tiffany as her tour group loads watching the sparkling performance of the evening. "Most people travel because they want something they can not see in China," she said. "They are interested in historical sites and famous art in Europe, and natural landscapes America and Australia. "
Pattaya Ladyboys spectacular are another example of something they can not see at home. (On the route a tour group, the Chinese word used to describe translated as "person-creatures.") After the show, the artists sequins adorned dominating caps crowded in the lobby to ask for pictures with tourists for an extra 40 baht (80p) a time. "Please inform management if artists misbehave," says a large sign warning about the potential overload. But this time it's some of the Chinese men who misbehave trying to squeeze Breast ladyboys in their photo shoots. "They think it's OK because the breasts are not real," CEO of Linkedin said wearily.
Wu, who worked as a guide for 20 years within and outside China, said to take his countrymen and women abroad is like "going into battle." "No decision is never easy. Everyone has an opinion that must be heard." But she does not believe that Chinese tourists deserve a reputation for big to be badly behaved. Like any nation, she said, "there are polite and rude people" and the most extreme cases of rude behavior are isolated incidents which should not tarnish all Chinese people.
There was outrage in May, for example, when it appeared that a teenager in the city of Nanjing has engraved his name on a 3500-year-old stone sculpture at Luxor Temple in Egypt. While the boy's parents apologized publicly, Chinese netizens pointed out that the ancient Great Wall of China is covered western graffiti.
Other incidents occur, said Wu, following acute disorientation that people experience in a foreign environment. She cites an occasion when she took a group of Chinese provincial tourists in Sydney. "It was winter at home but summer in Australia, so I told them to go in the toilet when we got off the plane to turn into light clothing." When they arrived, Wu found many people stripping off their underwear at the arrivals gate, given the other passengers. "They would never do that back in China. People were just confused," she said.
How to attract Chinese students? http://t.co/RKcaAdRUPL #china pic.twitter.com/WA81KMV7g9However, aware of the image of the nation abroad, the Chinese government issued a 64-page manual for Civilised Tourism in October containing safety tips and etiquette for its citizens abroad. Along with some helpful tips booklet rules include: "Do not fly the aircraft life jacket", "Do not leave any traces on toilet seats", "Do not take more than you can eat buffet breakfast "and" Do not dry your smalls more shade from the hotel. " There are also some specific advice for each country, such as the alert travelers to the United Kingdom than asking the British people if they ate was "deemed impolite" and counsel women tourists wearing earrings while in Spain, otherwise "they will be considered naked". source
— Marketing China (@marketing2china) 4 Février 2015
No wonder some people are confused. Fortunately Shun-Wen Tong, a student I met at the top of the observation tower of Pattaya, was not one of them. He sent me when he came to Hangzhou to say that he had survived his package tour without dramas. It was not as convinced as before that Thailand was "100% a holy nation" after visiting a "sex show where the ladies shot tropical fruit their private parts," but he was impressed by the way "Spirituality and happy co-existed sexuality." Above all, he says, the experience gave him the confidence to organize their own trips abroad in the future.
A few days later, Tong sent me a document of 10,000 words in English and Chinese called A Journal of my travels, all of his time in Thailand. "I hope you like it," he wrote. "This is just the first installment.