18 September 2019
A mainland visitor puts his foot on the seat on the MTR while a mainland mother helps her child urinate on the sidewalk at Hong Kong Disneyland. Photos:
A mainland visitor puts his foot on the seat on the MTR while a mainland mother helps her child urinate on the sidewalk at Hong Kong Disneyland. Photos:

Will blacklisting weed out misbehaving tourists?

Shanghai tourism authorities are considering a scheme that will ban tourists from traveling out of the country again if they are blacklisted for bad behavior abroad.

If adopted, local authorities will work with airlines, travel agencies and hotels to set up a record of tourists who have displayed bad behavior overseas.

Tour guides will be suspended or demoted if the team they lead behaves inappropriately. Tourists who behave properly while traveling abroad will be praised, while restrictions will be imposed on those who do not if they apply for another overseas travel.

After bad behavior by some Chinese tourists drew negative publicity in recent years, many travelers have become more conscious of how they comport themselves overseas, realizing that their behavior will have an impact on the nation’s image.

Shanghai’s initiative might help improve tourist behavior, but it is not addressing the deeper issues.

Many tourism agencies would conduct superficial briefings for tourists on local traditions and taboos before they set off on a trip. However, some tourists still fail to restrain themselves.

Therefore, giving travel agencies extra responsibility to ensure that tourists behave properly is not the solution. Various measures should be taken to improve the manners, conduct and civility of Chinese citizens.

It remains unclear whether other first-tier cities will follow Shanghai in taking such initiatives.

The Guangzhou government has no immediate plans to establish a “tourist blacklist” system. The city, a key source of tourists, has already set up a mature procedure in guiding and regulating outbound tourists.

Tourists are presented a notice for civilized behavior as they sign contracts and pay the fees at the travel agency. Tour guides also conduct a briefing for the tourists on the destination’s traditions and taboos before they hit the road.

Guides constantly remind tourists of the need for civilized behavior during the trip. After they come back from the trip, they are encouraged to send feedbacks.

The city government has been stepping up efforts in training guides on proper tourist behavior. Local tourism authorities have also tried various ways to encourage tourists to behave properly overseas.

Some suggest that China should set up a unified system and set of standards to define “uncivilized behavior”.

Poor behavior should be punished. Demerit points such as those used on drivers when they apply for a renewal of driving license can be adopted. These records could be linked with credit card or loan applications as well.

Blacklisting tourists may involve some legal issues as their right to travel is being restricted. Legislative authorities might need to be involved to make such a measure legally sensible.

In addition, there might be difficulties in proving that a tourist behaved properly abroad, particularly when the tourist involved questions the veracity of the accusation, as well as in determining whether bad behavior was done intentionally or not.

Addressing moral issues through legal means might present some challenges.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 16.

Translation by Julie Zhu

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