China's Vice-Premier Wang Yang in May 2013 acknowledged that "uncivilised behaviour" by its citizens abroad was harming the country's image. He cited "talking loudly in public places, jaywalking, spitting and wilfully carving characters on items in scenic zones". Destination countries have been easing visa restrictions to attract more tourists from China, but reports have emerged of complaints about etiquette.
Chinese tourists boycott Maldives resort amid claims of discrimination
Cup noodle fans should think twice when booking holidays in the Maldives, according to several Chinese travel agencies. Some luxury resorts have stopped providing Chinese guests with hot water to prevent them from skipping meals and room service in favour of cup noodles.
One even allegedly coined a new interpretation for “CN” - the acronym of “China”: cup noodle, according to Zhao Jianke, a former guest service manager at The Beach House Iruveli (TBHI), a five-star resort in northern Maldives.
Anger and calls for a boycott erupted on China’s social media this week after Zhao posted claims of discriminatory practices of the resort where he worked from October last year to February.
Many potential holidaymakers say they will stop vacationing on the Indian Ocean island until TBHI offers an official apology.
Zhao Jianke told SCMP.com that staff were ordered to treat Chinese visitors differently after the appointment of a new general manager in December.
“The new manager ordered us to take away hot water kettles from Chinese guests’ rooms and keep them in European guests’ rooms,” Zhao wrote in his statement, which has been reposted more than 10,000 times on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service.
Despite the fact that Chinese guests - particularly the elderly and couples travelling with toddlers – continually complained, the manager allegedly turned down their request to reinstall kettles, said Zhao.
He claims the manager would refer to CN as “cup noodle” in public and refused to welcome Chinese guests at the pier upon their arrival, a practise he adhered to for European guests, said Zhao.
A Chinese chef was later fired and several other staff, including Zhao, were forced to resign, he said.
An official statement from TBHI obtained by the Post on Friday dismissed the accusations as “defamatory” and denied treating Chinese guests differently.
“The Chinese market is very important for us and are always warmly welcomed to the Beach House Iruveli,” said the statement.
“The Beach House Iruveli did remove some damaged kettles from rooms as part of routine maintenance due to the fact that these kettles were damaged by guests by cooking food,” spokesperson Linda Petrie told SCMP.com on Friday.
On China’s Sina Weibo, former guests of resort shared their shock and disappointment:
“I stayed there in October last year and was very happy with everything - and I did have hot water kettle in my room,” wrote a blogger. “How could it have changed so much?”
“My parents have always had a hard time with western food when travelling overseas,” said another, “So hot tea and cup noodles always came handy.”
Other travellers have simply cancelled plans to visit the Maldives, said Jenny, a Beijing-based travel agent specialising in vacations to the island.
Jenny is among a group of agencies which stopped recommending the resort to clients after reading Zhao’s expose. They say they would not book the island resort unless TBHI apologises to its Chinese guests.
Jenny admitted that discriminatory treatment is “very rare” among resorts in the Maldives, which reportedly receives its largest number of tourists from China.
Zhao’s allegations triggered heated discussions in China after several newspapers picked up the story. Many have called for a thorough investigation.
"If the allegations are true, we should stop going there," said a blogger.
It might be too early to tell if the Maldives is falling out of favour with Chinese tourists, but it has certainly given potential holidaymakers pause for thought when booking vacations.
“After the incident, my clients now all make a new request when booking resorts: no discrimination,” said Jenny.