Chinese tourists will come of age

Updated: 2014-04-30 07:51

By William Daniel Garst (China Daily)

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The survey further indicates that the bulk of the luxury purchases were made by the wealthiest 26 percent of Chinese travelers, which should be of greater concern to the Chinese government than the loutish conduct of some Chinese outbound tourists. Foreign travel, it would seem, mirrors the growth of inequality and conspicuous consumption by the wealthy in China. Liu is on more solid ground when asserting, "Overseas travel is a new luxury, Chinese who can afford it compete with each other and want to show off." This behavior has fuelled resentment against the wealthy in China, and it is a key factor driving the recent government crackdown on corruption.

But as China's middle class expands and foreign travel becomes less and less the preserve of Chinese jet setters, this is beginning to change. Two Chinese friends, for example, eschewed group package tours while going abroad on their honeymoons, choosing instead to arrange their own tour itineraries. They did so to spend more time appreciating the sights and cultures of their foreign destinations - one of them got ripped off by an unscrupulous car rental agency - and avoid the mandatory shopping stops that are standard in group deals.

These individuals point to an emerging breed of Chinese overseas travelers: young and better educated with a greater knowledge of foreign places and cultures, and the eagerness to learn more about them. With more tourists like them, perhaps the image of the "ugly Chinese" tourist will fade into memory in the future, and outbound travelers from China will become respected ambassadors of a country with a long history and glorious culture.

The author is an American corporate trainer based in China.


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