BACK IN AUGUST, a news programme on the state-run China Central Television aired videos aimed at making Chinese tourists more polite after a series of embarrassing incidents.
These included a Chinese teenager etching his name on the Luxor Temple in Egypt and a group of beach-goers posing with a dying dolphin in Hainin, China.
100 million Chinese people will have travelled abroad by 2015, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation.
But at the same time as disposable incomes and relaxed restrictions on foreign travel have allowed Chinese tourists to see the world in record numbers, there’s also been growing criticism over the way some of those travellers behave.
Now the government has reacted, and this month China’s National Tourism Administration has released a 64-page handbook called “Guidelines on Civilised Travel Abroad,” according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
Chinese tourists are now forbidden to behave in any way deemed “uncivilised” by the book. Among other things, the rules urge Chinese tourists not to leave footprints on toilet seats, cut lines, pick their noses, take more than they can eat at buffet tables, or force locals to pose for photos.
Another section included guidelines for mainland Chinese visiting China’s bigger cities such as Hong Kong and Macau, where smoking in air-conditioned places and trying to get refunds on food have become local problems.
But the most specific rules in the new guidebook were regional restrictions encouraging tourists to “respect local customs.”
- Give a handkerchief in Italy as a gift because it is deemed inauspicious.
- Discuss the royal family in Thailand.
- Touch people’s belongings in Nepal with the foot.
- Ask for pork in Islamic countries.
- Call Africans “Negroes” or “black”.
- Use the left hand to touch other people in India.
- In general, touch antiques or draw graffiti on heritage structures.
- Expose the chest or back, or look dirty in public areas.
- Eat a whole piece of bread in one mouthful or slurp noodles noisily inside an aircraft.
- Use shower curtains in a hotel.
- Keep quiet when waiting to board a plane.
- Keep mobile phones turned off until the aircraft has come to a complete stop.
- Be punctual if taking part in a tour group.
- Arrive at a banquet hall 15 minutes early and adhere to a formal dress code.
China’s first tourism law went into effect on 1 October.
According to CNN, Article 14 of the law says that: “Tourists shall observe public order and respect social morality in tourism activities, respect local customs, cultural traditions and religious beliefs, care for tourism resources, protect the ecological environment, and abide by the norms of civilised tourist behaviors.”
There’s no word yet on what the penalty will be for tourists not following the new law, but CNN reports that tour guides and agencies that break any of the articles face fines up to $49,000.