BANGKOK, 6 March 2017: Chinese are not alone when it comes to spitting out of car and bus windows, or urinating behind an obliging tree, but we conveniently like to think they have a monopoly on bad manners.
Late last month, China National Tourism Administration released a survey on whether Chinese travellers were improving their manners when visiting the top 10 overseas destinations.
So are Chinese travellers mending their ways? Well sort of. The survey gave them slightly more than a score of five for making improvements. About half of the destinations surveyed conceded there had been improvements over the last five year. Predictably the Japanese, who usually demonstrate impeccable manners when travelling, were not convinced. Most of those interviewed said they had not seen any improvement. So it was back to the drawing board for CNTA.
While we would all wonder if it was possible for Chinese travellers to dial down the volume of chatter in an airport, we should beware of prejudice and ill-founded perceptions. We shouldn’t be lumping all Chinese travellers in a single basket of vulgar anecdotes.
How many times do we hear, intelligent, savvy tourism executives dismiss the China outbound market as cheap and nasty? Quite frequently, despite a bank of data and research that shows there are also millions of wealthy, educated Chinese tourists travelling the region who share the same values and respect for good manners as we do.
Generalisation and media hype in March 2016 ended the flow of Chinese families taking an overland car holiday to Thailand via Laos.
Of course, there were examples of crazy driving, poor road manners and supposedly thousands of motor home discharging their waste in gutters and roadside fields.
It was an exaggeration that prompted Thailand’s Department of Land Transport to create rules that have since closed the door on a lucrative travel channel.
I doubt if the Department of Land Transport could count more than 10 Chinese registered cars crossing the Huay Xai-Chiang Khong Friendship Bridge checkpoint during the 2017 Chinese New Year celebrations.
In contrast, there were literally hundreds of Chinese families driving their posh SUVs and top-of-the-range families cars to explore North Thailand during Chinese New Year 2016.
This year, I noticed one car, with its distinctive blue number plate, on highway 1152 near my Chiang Rai home. It appears the Department of Land Transport was guilty of a massive over reaction that ended the tourism value of the Friendship Bridge. It has cost Chiang Rai province and North Thailand billions in lost tourism revenue.
Yes we all want travellers to mind their manners, but a knee jerking reaction like the one that slammed the door on Chinese registered cars urgently requires a review.