It is said that good things come to those who wait, and Guo Guangchang has done his share of waiting. For more than 18 months since Fosun – the conglomerate that Guo controls – first made its offer for French resort operator Club Med, he has waited patiently. The competition for Club Med was the longest public takeover battle in French stock market history.
Having finally won the bid – sweetening the offer five times to value the firm at €939 million ($1.12 billion) – Guo says Fosun will help Club Med to grow its revenues (likely by filling its resorts with China’s growing horde of vacationers).
But while that news may be welcomed in China, tourists in other parts of the world may think twice about holidaying at Guo’s new purchase. Chinese tourists have long suffered from unflattering stereotypes of being loud and rude. Even Xi Jinping has called for more civilised behaviour. (The Chinese president also joked that his compatriots should eat fewer cup noodles, a nod to earlier news that hotels in the Maldives have removed electric kettles to discourage Chinese guests from cooking their own meals.)
Those stereotypes are going to be hard to shift, mind you – particularly in the light of recent news. In mid-December a group of Chinese passengers unhappy about their seating arrangements on an AirAsia flight from Bangkok to Nanjing berated a flight attendant before scalding her with noodles and hot water. In a video taken by a fellow passenger, a man from the group is also seen yelling that he would “bomb the plane”.
The pilot was forced to turn the flight around and return to Bangkok, where the police escorted the unruly passengers off the plane.
Prior to this incident, another passenger on a China Eastern flight was so keen to be first to disembark after landing that he opened the emergency exit.
Similarly, on a flight from Chongqing to Hong Kong two Chinese passengers got into a physical confrontation over a crying baby.
After videos of the brawl on the AirAsia flight went viral on weibo, China Daily published an editorial skewering the tourists’ poor behaviour.
“They believed that behaving like barbarians would get them what they wanted, forgetting that civility demands that a fellow human being be treated as an equal. Such uncivilised behaviour will not be accepted anywhere, let alone onboard a flight,” it opined.
The Beijing Youth Daily added that fighting on planes not only tarnishes the country’s image but also poses security risks. “Relevant government departments should act immediately to punish the perpetrators, otherwise the public’s safety will be jeopardised.”
The bad press has caught the attention of tourism bosses. In late December the National Tourism Administration criticised the unruly group on the AirAsia flight for “badly damaging the overall image of the Chinese people”, warning that theywould be “severely punished” for their actions. The tour firm which led the group has had its licence suspended for a year, says the bureau.
Even though the statement did not specify the punishment to be levied, the tourism bureau says it has put the four travellers on a blacklist. The Information Times says that this means that no travel agencies will accept their bookings.
Separately, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) is mulling whether to compile a database of air-rage instigators.
“Everyone must behave while travelling,” says Li Jiaxiang, director of the CAAC. “Despite the recent scandal being caused by only a few passengers, it has strongly tarnished the image of Chinese travellers.”
Still, many internet users have argued that establishing blacklists and banning offenders from travel isn’t going to be enough to solve the problem of poor behaviour from some of China’s new tourists.
Some took aim at the country’s schooling system. “Education reform is imperative. The country should not blindly engage in exam-based education and focus more on students’ character development. Unless we raise moral standards and civic awareness, we are always going to be known as the ‘ugly Chinese’,” a disappointed weibo user suggested.
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