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Two versions --Original by USA Today and Chinese by ChinaDaily?|
Chinese travelers' bad manners earn a chilly reception
Updated 9/7/2006 12:05 PM By Paul Wiseman and Winnie Cheung, USA TODAY
HONG KONG — Make way for the newest arrival on the international travel scene: the tourist from mainland China.
The heir apparent to the "ugly Americans" bumbling through Europe in the '50s and '60s and the camera-clicking, free-spending Japanese tour groups of the '70s are travelers from the Middle Kingdom who are seen — even by their own government — as a sharp-elbowed, chain-smoking, hard-bargaining lot. They may take some getting used to.
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"I came across some on the elevator this morning. It's a nightmare!" says Amarin King Kaew, a jewelry merchant in Bangkok. "They're so noisy. They talked to each other over my head."
Fueled by a growing economy at home, Chinese travelers are expected to take 34.1 million trips abroad this year, up more than six-fold from a decade earlier, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization. They spent $19.1 billion in 2004, the latest year for which figures are available, an increase of 26% from 2003. The agency projects that Chinese will take 100 million trips abroad annually by 2020.
Chinese tourists mostly stick to Asian destinations such as Bangkok and Hong Kong, which technically is part of China but requires a visa for mainland travelers.
Mainland Chinese — arriving after years of isolation under a Communist government — are easy to spot, even in Asia.
When Disneyland opened here last year, Hong Kong newspapers cataloged and photographed examples of uncouth behavior by visitors from China: They cut in line. They smoke in no-smoking areas. They spit. They go around barefoot. They squat in the middle of the sidewalk when they need a rest.
"They never follow the rules," says Bangkok hotel clerk Khemawadee, who uses one name. "Our hotel has a standard dress code we use all over the world, and we never have a problem: 'Do not wear shorts or sandals or a singlet (undershirt)' in certain parts of the hotel. But they do."
In contrast to Japanese tourists, whose free-spending ways delight the travel industry, Chinese tourists don't know when to stop haggling.
"They always bargain, even in high-profile department stores," Kehmawadee says.
The Chinese have begun to realize how much they have to learn.
Zhang Lipeng, who migrated from the mainland to Hong Kong 10 years ago, wrote a letter to the China Youth Daily in January imploring mainland visitors to quiet down, wait in line on the subway, curtail the spitting and stop squatting in public.
"Hong Kong is a civilized city," she wrote. "The shopping centers are not like threshing grounds on a farm."
The government is taking heed. China's ruling Communist Party plans to publish an etiquette guide on proper manners for the Chinese traveler abroad, the state-run newspaper China Daily reported Saturday.
The guide is in response to reports from abroad of bad behavior that has "damaged the image of China as a civilized country," the newspaper said.
Contributing: Jeffrey Stinson in London, Jamlong Saiyot in Bangkok