Guangzhou Daily did a piece of news on April 6th comparing the change of Chinese tourists’ spending overseas in the last decade to that of their European, American, and Japanese counterparts, and came to conclude that the radical change reflects the change of status of Chinese tourists from being despised to being valued and respected. Dissents on the conclusion soon followed, clearing the difference between being valued and being respected.
The chart attached in the news shows the average consumptions by Chinese tourists are 1) 3000 USD in France, triples that by European and American tourists; 2) 2200 USD in Australia comparing to only 712 USD by Japanese tourists; 3) and 1276 USD in Korea.
Here is the story. Ten years ago, foreign hotels out of despise set up “specific areas” for Chinese tourists; nowadays when invited by foreign tourism bureau Chinese get to stay in the most luxurious hotels of that place while their western counterparts be arranged to relatively less starred or rural ones. The world views Chinese tourists in a completely different way now, more and more countries are paying double attention to Chinese tourist market, value and respect Chinese tourists.
One day ten years ago, Cai Zezhou went to a north European country for business negotiation, he recalled: “I was going to canteen for breakfast when a waiter gestured me to go to the buffet at ground floor. I didn’t mind at the time until later when I found out that all whites are dining on the second floor and all Chinese are at ground floor.” The hotel set up a specific area for Chinese because they think some whites may not be happy dining with Chinese in the same canteen. What’s more the food variety in the specific area was much fewer but priced the same. Cai Zezhou felt insulted so he when to the manager who didn’t show much concern to about Cai’s complain at first until Cai broke a plate angrily then the manager showed him to second floor.
“It is common in the preliminary phrase of China’s Reform and Opening up.” Said Wang Jian, spokesman of Guangdong China Travel, “the existence of “specific area” for Chinese is mainly due to culture differences, for instance, Chinese like to speak loudly when dine while westerners enjoy quiet meal.”
Last year, Cai Zezhou accompanied his wife shopping in a luxurious pro shop in France, they were surprised to be received by shopping guide that spoke Chinese; same thing happened in Italy where a guide approach them and began detail introduction as soon as he heard Chinese, leaving other tourists aside. Cai added: “There are signs in Chinese everywhere in Sydney Airport; local people are willing to take the initiative to speak Chinese; and they provide Australian Declaration Card in Chinese on international flights.”
Xie Qian as a experienced outbound travel guide has deep feeling about the change of Chinese tourists’ status “Foreign hotels of high class used to feed on western tourists, now they count on Chinese tourists so they are getting more and more considerate for us.” She said lots of minor changes can tell that Chinese tourists are being valued, for example, Helsinki Airport of Finland now has signs in Chinese character; there is even Chinese broadcast in some Japanese airport; Switzerland mall Luzern has a sign that read “恭喜发财” (gong xi fa cai, greeting in New Year) stuck in the front.
Wen Qian, vice manager of Guang Zhi Lv (广之旅, alleged biggest travel agency in Southern China) also notices the difference. One time she was invited for a expeditionary tour by a country, she was arranged to stay in a six star hotel and assigned a interpreter throughout the tour, while her western counterparts of the tour can only stayed in three star ones located on the outskirt of the city. She said: “We are treated better because the Chinese tourists market is getting bigger with world’s No.1 growth rate.”
Overseas Chinese Cai Wei attributed the change of China’s status and image to the 2008 Olympic Game, he believed the Game did a great job in promoting China, and Shanghai World Expo and Guangzhou Asian Game will go on generating positive impression for China.
Professor Huang Yunte is also a oversea Chinese, he wrote a book on Cantonese living in the US, he told the reporter: “I published the book not long ago, the editor is American who asked me ‘do Chinese people think American is stupid?’. It is true that Americans think highly of Chinese, they used to admire Japanese, but now Chinese are no less lower than Japanese in terms of position in their mind.”
However Professor Liu Wei from Guangdong University of Finance thought that shopping malls, hotels and restaurants are all chasing after profit, whichever country will be willing to provide superb service for a certain countries’ tourists as long as the tourists can bring huge economic benefits. “The respect only stays on surface.” he added, “there are still many bad behavior with Chinese tourists, such as talking aloud in western restaurants, dressing improperly on some formal occasions. Apart from business units, lots of foreigners still hold discrimination against Chinese. Only when we get rid of these uncivilized habits can we gain foreigners respect in real sense.”
Below is a commentary from Zaobao on April 8th.
The day before yesterday I was having dinner with my Singaporean friends when one of them expressed his deep impression of Shenzhen’s tourist site Window of the World where mini replicas of world famous spots gather. He said if you focus your camera to the mini Eiffel Tower without taking in any Chinese tourists, you will think it is the real Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Immediately another friend objected and said there should be as many Chinese tourists as possible in the photo to resemble the real one. He also pointed out that it was mostly Chinese in the lines that wait outside LV head store at Avenue des Champs-Elysees, Paris will not be Paris without Chinese tourists.
In Hong Kong, things are no more different. In the past, Hong Kong people don’t like to do business with mainland tourists and call them “Ah Chan” out of the bias that mainland people are poor. But now they make sure that all employees at the store can speak Mandarin so that mainland tourists as their “god of wealth” can enjoy good service.
As for Europe, the US, Japan and Korea, it is common to see signs and guides written in Chinese. They know well about Chinese tourist buying behavior. I remember one time I was travelling in Jizhou Island, Korea, the shop assistant mistakenly think I was a Chinese and shout out at me “有发票，进来看（Come and see, we have invoice）.”
These occasions revealed that Chinese tourists are everywhere around the world now, and they are being more valued by overseas tourist markets. (then the author quoted from gzdaily, see Para 3 above) However I don’t think there is a equal mark between this “value” and “respect”. Chinese tourists are spending money overseas of course they will be valued, but to gain respect, they have to do more than just squandering money.
A friend of mine working in hotel business told me that hotel employees prefer western tourists to mainland people not because they fancy exotic culture but westerners do score higher in manners, westerners respond to their greetings and praise as well as tip them for good service; in occasions of dissatisfaction, western tourists tend to be more patient and listen to their explanation or accept apologies, unlike some mainland tourists who don’t even try to listen just set out to scold, thinking they are somebody just because they pay.
Another friend of mine as a tour guide in Singapore once said that lots of Chinese tourists come to Singapore just to shop, in brand pro stores especially, they are not interested in other things. Singapore is renowned shopping world of course, but it is a little bit shallow for Chinese tourists to go there to shop only. Singapore is a multicultural country with various cultural tastes to offer, if Chinese tourists don’t take the opportunity to embrace the culture to improve their knowledge, they can only continue with being valued but not necessarily respected. Many western tourists are respected there because they are willing to get to know and appreciate local culture, as well as to get closer to local people.
Rednet once did a commentary saying people do not necessarily embrace manners and indentify honor against shame even when they are full and warm. (Chinese proverb “仓禀实，知礼节；衣食足，知荣辱” suggests positive relation between spiritual wealth and material wealth). Many people view their status higher than others when they have money in hand, and take it for granted that they deserve more respect from others. But they forget that a chair, no matter it is made of gold or diamond, is no more than just a chair, nobody will pay tribune to it.
Chinese manners are somewhat better, but none radical change in genera. But why they are received differently so soon overseas? It takes 3 years to foster a big cat, but even 3 generations can not guarantee to hatch a gentleman. From being despised in the last decade to being valued today, a big turn as such is probably just boosted by money.
It is simple to be valued, as long as you are rich, this is a realistic world; but to be respected is far more difficult because money can not buy others’ respect. It is true that the number of civilized and respectable Chinese tourists is rising, but foreigners look at Chinese as a whole, therefore to become member of that respectable group, all Chinese people have to try and participate to learn how to respect other people no matter poor or rich and others’ cultures from the bottom of their hearts, and abandon the thought that being able to squander makes them somebody.