“Ugly Americans” — tourists with appalling manners, loud voices,
louder apparel and heaps of cultural insensitivity — have been an
enduring stereotype for decades.
They are now facing a major challenge from their increasingly well-traveled Chinese counterparts.
only are the Chinese bemoaning their rudeness at home and abroad, the
government has responded with new rules that took effect this week,
aimed at keeping loutish travelers in check.
And in a major
innovation, the government has named four tourists to a new blacklist,
which could affect their credit ratings and freedom to travel for years.
There was considerable competition in the airborne category.
Wang Sheng and Zhang Yan earned special recognition for their
performance on a Bangkok-to-China flight last December. When they did
not immediately get the seats they wanted, they threw hot instant noodles at a stewardess and threatened to blow up the plane. The pilot then made a U-turn and headed back to Bangkok, where police detained the pair.
Another traveler was blacklisted for opening a door on his flight as it was about to take off. Another was photographed climbing on statues of Chinese civil war-era soldiers.
year, Chinese tourists took 109 million trips overseas, 20 percent more
than in 2013. Many host nations may be inclined to overlook misbehaving
Chinese tourists because China now contributes more money to the global
tourism industry than any other nation.
Chinese characters that read “Ding Jinhao was here” are seen
on the torso of figure on the wall of a 2,500-year-old temple in Luxor,
Egypt, in 2013. A 15-year-old Chinese boy scratched the characters onto
the wall of the ancient site.
China Stringer Network/Reuters/Landov
China Stringer Network/Reuters/Landov
The problem of what Chinese officials call “uncivilized tourists”
has become “a major issue in our oversight of the tourism industry,”
says Li Zhongguang, a researcher at an arm of the China National Tourism
“Our government has been forced to respond to it.”
two dozen government departments were involved in drafting the new
rules, Li says, including the ruling Communist Party’s “Civilization
Office,” which is in charge of ideological affairs.
that China has had laws on the books for nearly two decades banning bad
tourist behavior, and encouraging its opposite, but he says they haven’t
had the desired effect.
One of the most embarrassing episodes came two years ago, when a 15-year-old Chinese tourist carved his name on ancient bas reliefs in a temple in Luxor, Egypt.
Chinese citizens have questioned whether the new rules are too harsh,
or infringe on civil liberties, such as privacy and the right to travel.
Li says the concerns are overblown, and the rules will affect very few
“Some media have misread these rules as being tougher
than they really are, like reporting that folks won’t be able to pick
their noses in public,” he says. “These rules are really are only meant
to curb the worst excesses.”
Experienced Beijing-based tour operator Chuck Liu has taken
tourists to many countries. He welcomes the new rules. He thinks they’ll
help him to help tourists avoid the most common forms of bad behavior,
such as cutting in line, littering, smoking and talking loudly where
they’re not allowed.
“As adults, they completely understand the
principles involved,” Liu says of his customers. “It’s just a matter of
changing their ingrained habits.”
Not everyone gets it, though.
of them think nothing of it. They say ‘never mind, it doesn’t matter.’
But I tell them, ‘this is the law in the U.S. We’re not in China
Liu remembers bringing a group to Hawaii during the
Mid-Autumn Festival, a holiday celebrated by ethnic Chinese. In their
luggage, the tour group members carried the traditional treat eaten
during this holiday: mooncakes.
says that when customs officers discovered the cakes, they said they’d
have to confiscate them. And if it happened again, they could be barred
from entering the U.S. But that’s not where the story ends.
I was communicating with the customs officers, my group proceeded to
eat all of the moon cakes,” Liu says. “When the officers saw this, they
were at first embarrassed. But then they got angry … when they
realized that the tourists had just eaten all the evidence.
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