Over the last few years, the Chinese tourist (i.e., tourists from Mainland China) and business traveller have become a global phenomena. Not only do we see them in Europe, US, Australasia and Southeast Asia, I have witnessed their massive presence everywhere. During the last few months of travel in South Asia and Middle East, I have made the following observations:
- Very few vendors or touts greeted me in Japanese. These days, "Ni hao", the Chinese greeting, seemed to be known to most people everywhere, be it small towns in Yemen or in bazaars in Bangladesh. Some of the people could even count in Chinese. Not good, as I could no longer discuss bargaining tactics in Chinese with my travel companions without the other party understanding me. In Kerala, India, I even encountered young people trying to practise what rudimentary Mandarin they have recently learned. Reminds me of how Mainland Chinese used to mob Westerners to practise English.
- At least one Mainland Chinese in every flight I have made - including domestic flights in obscure parts of India and Yemen.
On flights to major tourist destinations, they could either be tourists or businessmen. On obscure flights, they tend to be businessmen, or technicians/engineers working on some Chinese companies' industrial installations or manufacturing facilities in those remote regions, or even for Chinese government's aid projects in those countries. A Bangladeshi told me that the Chinese businessman is willing to venture to remote parts of Bangladesh to do business, even making money in places someone from Dhaka would deem poor and unprofitable.
- Many Chinese tourists continue to travel in groups, but I have encountered English-speaking young Chinese professionals/yuppies hiking in Nepal or diving in Maldives. In Kathmandu, Chinese hoteliers are buying up hotel and giving them Chinese names and putting up Chinese signboards in anticipation of the Chinese tourist crowd.
- Chinese language brochures are now distributed by the Maldives Government's tourism board.
- While researching on Ethiopia, I have come across Chinese website set up by Ethiopian travel agencies trying to attract Chinese photographers/tourists.
- I have heard complaints in Nepal that although Chinese are coming in big ways, many of those who come in on tourist visas also try to do some business or are only willing to spend money in Chinese-owned tourism establishments in Nepal.
- I have heard comments by Yemenis that Chinese are coming in big ways into Yemen (on business, I guess), which provides a good competition to US/European interests which is often perceived as overbearingly arrogant, intrusive, imperialistic and pro-Israeli. And the Yemenis love this new competition.
- I just stumbled onto a Chinese website about travelling in Suriname, complete with webforum with discussions on some Suriname tourist sites.
We live in an increasingly interesting and multi-polar world.