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All Chinese tourists are not created equal


All Chinese tourists are not created equal

All Chinese tourists are not created equal

Welcome to “Every Picture Tells a Story”; a weekly post about living in Thailand. Each week we’ll post a picture that illustrates some of the best parts about living in Thailand.

Go to the Bangkok Post website and search for stories on “Chinese tourists”. You’ll be served a menu of articles with a wide array of perspectives.

Some hail the prowess of the Tourism Authority of Thailand for bringing the nuevo-cash to our shores. Some see it as a changing of the guard in terms of Thai tourism.

Many articles recount heinous cultural atrocities committed by Chinese tourists. From desecrating ancient temples to spitting on the floor in restaurants, Chinese tourists are portrayed as heathens who have no regard for anything but their own desires.

I’ve witnessed this kind of tourist first hand in more than one city here in Thailand. Four double-decker tour buses pull up and suddenly the streets are awash in Chinese tourists all shouting and pointing and moving like a giant school of feeding fish towards unsuspecting vendors and shop owners.

An Italian deli owner in Jomtien says 30 of them invaded her small shop inhabiting every corner; taking pictures … picking up each and every item in the shop … and then leaving as suddenly as they had arrived … not spending one satang.

A guesthouse owner in Chiang Mai says Chinese families show up to stay a week with no luggage. They wash their one set of clothes in the bathroom sink and hang them on the furniture to dry every day. And according to this hotelier, they do not understand the concept of “no smoking”.

Is this really what the TAT had intended with its campaign to attract “quality tourists”? It appears that their intentions were admirable … “get some of that new found Chinese wealth”. But, by the time TAT’s efforts trickled down to the street level, Thailand ended up with an ugly case of Chinese package tourism. The kind that only benefits a few, and most of them are in China.

What TAT most likely intended was to attract the oh-so-elusive independently traveling Chinese (ITC) tourist; middle-class to wealthy from Shanghai or Beijing. Educated people with some decorum who know better than to spit on the floor or smoke in a lift.

I thought ITCs were a myth until I actually met some in Chiang Mai. That’s the story this week’s picture tells. I caught these Chinese ladies at a café in The Old City. They were politely chattering away and stealthily working through the menu. Each had at least 4 shopping bags on the floor under their table.

When they saw me gawking at their level of consumption, they spoke to me in pretty good English. “Hey, we’re on holiday” one of them said. “We are here to spend money and eat”.

Two IT workers from Shanghai staying at a resort … eating and drinking everything in sight … buying new suitcases to take back all the stuff they bought.

For sure we could use a few more like Jen and Jen from Shanghai.

Orlando Barton

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