Friday, January 23, 2015

Risking 'Je suis Cheng'

I see that Queenstown, in amongst a number of other well-deserved awards, has just been voted the second most popular long-haul destination by CTRIP.com, China's largest online travel agency. I'm not sure that this is such a good thing.

It feels like a risky, non-PC and narrow-minded thing to say but, to be brutally honest, the Chinese are not my favourite tourists. Quite simply, they don't know how to behave. They're loud, pushy, ill-disciplined, have some very unfortunate personal habits, go around in large groups, and often seem to be taking small interest in the places that they're spoiling for everyone else. They remind me a bit of how the Japanese used to be when they first started travelling back in the '70s: in groups, pouring off buses to take photos of each other in front of various sights, climbing back on board again, and falling straight asleep. I still remember vividly being sent staggering off that flagstone in the middle of St Peter's Square in Vatican City from where all the columns around the outside line up. That group of excitably chattering Japanese tourists never even noticed that I was there first.

But since then they have become much more sophisticated, braver, more independent and perfectly considerate tourists. They have learned. Will the Chinese do the same? Perhaps, eventually - but there are so many more of them, newly affluent, to be making their first thrilling forays overseas that it will take a very long time for the message to spread about personal space, personal hygiene, queuing and so on. In the meantime, we'll have to put up with being crowded out and shouted down, and will have to watch where we put our feet. Such a shame, when you're in a place like Queenstown, which is all about gazing awestruck around you.

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