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Solutions offered to save national image tarnished by tour groups overseas

(Global Times)

08:32, June 07, 2013

Working as an overseas tour guide for the past decade, Song Xiaobing has made two key observations: more and more Chinese tourists are traveling abroad, meaning he must increasingly ensure they don't embarrass themselves - or their compatriots.

As a senior tour guide working in one of China's largest travel agencies, China International Travel Service, Song leads dozens of Chinese overseas tour groups each year to destinations in Europe, the Americas, Africa and the Middle East.

Before each tour group's departure, Song organizes a mandatory meeting with all group members.

"It used to be only a brief meeting to advise our guests about helpful tips for their trip, but now these meetings have become longer and more important," Song said.

In the meetings, Song distributes a long list of reminders that includes obvious advice, such as appropriate clothing and health tips. But the list also details types of unacceptable behavior, including avoiding talking loudly or spitting in public places, refraining from queue-jumping and not taking photographs where it is forbidden.

The list has continually expanded over the years, although an increasing number of incidents overseas involving Chinese tourists has nevertheless been reported.

The latest "lesson" Song learned came from a complaint letter issued by a hotel in Europe, where one of his tour groups had recently stayed during a 10-day sightseeing trip. The hotel claimed that all towels in group members' rooms had gone missing after the guests checked out.

"I really didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I figured out some elderly people in my group had taken the towels. By the time we realized it, we had to foot the bill for the losses," Song said.

Song said the travel agency had learned dozens of such lessons in its operations, prompting it to remind new guests of the growing list of unacceptable behaviors before they depart.

"Sometimes we list them in the handbook directly, while other times we have to remind tourists privately and suggest the issue in a roundabout way so that they don't feel offended," Song said.

"But we can't force our guests to do or not do something. We can only remind them again and again, and clean up their mess if they ignore us."

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