During a meeting in May to discuss a new tourism law, Vice Premier Wang Yang called for more efforts to elevate the image of Chinese tourists as the country’s tourist industry is in its “golden phase of development with vast potential.”
For five successive days since Wednesday, Xinwen Lianbo, a flagship news program on China Central Television, has aired educational clips aimed at promoting polite tourist behavior.
The unusual move by Xinwen Lianbo, usually dedicated to political news and major events, is one of many indications of the country’s efforts to reverse unfavorable stereotypes of Chinese tourists and improve the tarnished national image.
Guidelines mandating good manners will soon be included into tourist contracts with travel agents and unruly holidaymakers will risk inflicting penalties, according to the National Tourism Agency.
Starting from Oct 1, the country’s first tourism law will be fully implemented, making it legally binding for tourists to behave well and respect local customs and traditions.
China ranks the third biggest outbound tourist market and is the largest source of international tourism spending. Chinese travelers spent a record $102 billion overseas in 2012, according to a report by the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
However, the growing number of outbound visitors from the world’s second largest economy has so far been a mixed blessing for the world. While countries welcome their penchant for generous spending, they have also been unnerved by their obnoxious behavior.
Spitting in the street, talking noisily in restaurants and fighting for space to take pictures, such uncivilized manners have damaged China’s age-old image as a “country of etiquette.”
In May, a boy from Nanjing in East China’s Jiangsu province carved graffiti on an Egyptian temple, causing anger in China.
Despite earning the nickname “walking wallets,” even the purchasing power of Chinese tourists cannot help with the problem.
For Huang Chenwei, a veteran tour guide with Shanghai-based Jinjiang Travel, to carefully study, understand and respect local customs and traditions proves effective in avoiding any faux pas while visiting a foreign country.
For example, Huang reminds tourists in her team to pay attention to the way people in New Zealand enjoy themselves picnicking at the seaside without littering. By following suit, she believed that Chinese tourists can win the respect of the island’s locals.
In fact, respect from the international community is greatly valued by the country’s general public.
Recent photographs showing some Chinese foot bathers in a pool in front of the Louvre soon created a storm online in China and courted harsh criticism, though pictures subsequently posted revealed that foreigners also bathed their feet in the pool.
“We are all informal diplomats when we visit foreign countries,” said Yang Jinhui, a tour guide with Beijing Caissa International Travel Service Co Ltd.
“I believe Chinese tourists are all willing to make an effort to show the best of our culture and what they need is just a little guidance,” Yang added.