There are some valid criticisms of Chinese tourists. Even the Chinese government recognized this and it is trying to change people’s behavior.
One important factor is the sheer number of Chinese tourists. 160M Chinese people make overseas trips each year, and this number is growing. Countries welcome the money that these tourists bring with them but some just can’t handle the volume of people.
Also the number of people in a tour group can be quite big because travel agencies need the volume to make money. This reduces the quality of the trips and increases the stress on the tourist destination.
China is a developing country. Only a few decades ago people didn’t have annual leave, not to mention money to make overseas trips. Some just don’t know how to behave in a foreign country. For the older generation, when you grew up in a time of scarcity, you take what you can get, whenever you can. When your parents or grandparents always had to fight and compete with others to survive you develop a different perspective on social graces. You offer all you can eat buffets, and people will get their money’s worth. For people who grew up in abundance this is a concept that is difficult to grasps. This is not a justification of the behavior but it’s good to understand the history and context.
Some behavior is universally unacceptable. There is no excuse for unhygienic behavior. Hopefully with education and time this will change. And international exposure is exactly what is needed in terms of education.
What is worrying are the people who use Chinese tourists as an excuse for racism. Some people have something against China or Chinese people and they use the Chinese tourist as an excuse to spread racists views, even when they didn’t actually have any relevant experience. So you have to ask yourself, is this about some Chinese tourists, all Chinese tourists, or all Chinese people.
The same cliche pictures or negative stories are recycled over and over again. The repeated narrative creates an association in people’s mind, even when they didn’t actually have any experience with Chinese tourists, or it exaggerates the few negative experiences they did had.
The Chinese tourists narrative is thrown on the same pile as all the other anti-China narratives we can see in the mass media these days, reinforcing anti-China, anti-Asian sentiments.
The behavior and the volume of Chinese tourists can be a problem. But different aspects of the problem need to be assessed separately.
Tourist destinations need to decide what volume of visitors they can handle. Smaller tour groups and less of a conveyor belt approach to tourism can make groups more manageable and improve the experience. More education regarding hygiene and respectful social interactions is desirable.
With time, and guidance by the government and travel industry the issue should resolve itself gradually. The anti-China sentiments are a different story unfortunately.
, M.Sc. Master of Business Administration Degrees & Marketing, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University