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How to be a Chinese tourist

Travel Tips

Cape Town - According to South African Tourism, the number of Chinese tourists grew by over 61 percent between January and April this year compared to the same period in 2015.

China was South Africa’s sixth largest market outside Africa during this period.

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Paris has been rocked by terror attacks, submerged by floods and wracked by violent protests, but France remains Chinas destination of choice outside of Asia.

This is part of a global trend. With incomes rising in China, more people are travelling than ever before.

About 65 million Chinese will travel abroad this year, accounting for one in 10 tourists worldwide. This will only grow, considering just seven percent of Chinese currently own a passport but many more have plans to travel.

In How To Be a Chinese Tourist, award-winning 101 East reporter Aela Callan joined Chinese travellers on a frenetic tour of Paris to understand this increasingly important but frequently misunderstood market segment.

Paris has been rocked by terror attacks, submerged by floods and wracked by violent protests, but France remains China’s destination of choice outside of Asia. Last year, nearly two million Chinese tourists visited Paris, spending more than one billion euros - more than the Japanese or the Americans. The French authorities want to more than double the number - to five million a year.

But locals complain that bad behaviour - from spitting to queue jumping – is spoiling their iconic city. Inexperienced Chinese tourists have been well documented on social media around the globe.

There’s the man who had a bath in a Venice canal; a student who graffitied his name on an Egyptian temple; and fights at the airport, fights on the plane, and fights at the buffet table. All this has led to Chinese authorities threatening to blacklist badly behaved tourists and ban them from travelling abroad.

Yolanda, a Chinese tour guide trainer, tells her prospective tour guides they need to train their tourists on how to behave differently while in Paris.

Her tips include not allowing their tourists to push to the front of the queue; to ask them to talk in a lower voice in restaurants, galleries and museums; and most importantly: “We need to wait. We need to be patient. And sometimes we need to say please and thank you and how you say, be polite? Be polite.”

Yolanda also teaches tour guides to never stay in one place for long. “About 40m to an hour,” she says.

“A quantity of sites, rather than quality, seems to be the name of the game,” says Aela. “They go on whirlwind tours of the city. There’s barely time to take in famous sites like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.”

With her Chinese tour operators, and later with a group of Chinese tourists, Aela is ushered up the steps of the Sacre Couer in just two minutes; driven up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to save precious minutes; and told that Chinese tourists aren’t interested in the history of how artists like Picasso and Dali made Montmartre a mecca for modern art. “It doesn’t really mean much if you try to translate,” says Yolanda. “You can just say this is the painter’s village.”

The average Chinese tourist in France spends more on shopping than food, entertainment and accommodation combined. After the Eiffel Tower, the second most popular destination for Chinese tourists is the Galeries Lafayette department store, which has a separate entrance and shopping area for Chinese tourists, where they can buy in their own currency from Mandarin-speaking shop assistants.

Aela also befriends a Chinese tourist, Xia [Shah] Deyan, who marvels at a French strike “that would be impossible in China;” is disappointed by the Mona Lisa at The Louvre; and tells her that his favourite thing about France is the “really clean” air, which he says is “much better than in China.”

Adapted from a press release for IOL

* How to Be a Chinese Tourist screens on Al Jazeera English on Sunday, 31 July 2016 at 1830 SAST on 101 East

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