From volcano lava to love scams, five risks for China’s growing band of overseas tourists

Embassies have issued a spate of travel warnings to ensure safety as outbound tourism swells

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 July, 2018, 9:16pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 July, 2018, 9:16pm

An erupting volcano, ruthless love scammers and deadly snorkelling accidents: those are just a few of the dangerous and dishonest schemes that China’s embassies are alerting its nationals about as the summer travel season kicks into high gear.

Some 131 million tourists went out on trips from mainland China last year, up 6.9 per cent from a year earlier, spending more than US$115 billion, according to the China Tourism Academy (CTA), a state-run think tank.

Hong Kong, Macau and Thailand were the top three destinations last year, while other hotspots included the United States, Singapore, Indonesia, Russia and Australia, according to the CTA.

The risks of travel for Chinese tourists were highlighted when a boat capsized in Phuket, Thailand, killing 47 Chinese nationals.

Here are five risks on the warning list:

Hawaiian lava

Hawaii’s erupting Kilauea Volcano has become one of the world’s top tourist attractions, but the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles said Chinese tourists should to keep a safe distance from the peak.

Kilauea has been active since May, attracting many “lava tourists” to the Pacific island.

Terror as lava bomb hits Hawaii tour boat, injuring many

As “lava tourism” catches on, the consulate has directed Chinese tourists to read its “Volcano Disaster Response Guide”, a Chinese translation of US government advice on volcano safety.

Twenty-three tourists were hurt when a “lava bomb” crashed into their tour boat as they watched lava flow from Kilauea into the sea, according to Reuters.

Taiwan-based international scammers

China’s Public Security Bureau said reports from several Chinese embassies suggested the a Taiwanese group was behind scammers posing as embassy staff and calling Chinese tourists in the US, demanding personal and banking information, Xinhua reported.

Chinese tourists accused of taking Vladivostok’s ‘crown jewels’

The Chinese consulate in San Francisco said last week that phone scams were “extremely rampant” and warned travellers to be wary if contacted by people claiming to be embassy officials with news of kidnappings, or making other fraudulent claims.

The latest warning echoes the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ alert in April to Chinese travellers to the US about people claiming to be embassy or consulate staff demanding personal information and saying a relative of the traveller had been in an accident.

Snorkelling deaths, from Australia to the Bahamas

Chinese embassies in both Australia and the Bahamas have urged Chinese tourists to be aware of the risks of snorkelling.

The Chinese embassy in Australia said snorkelling accidents killed Chinese tourists each year, particularly at the Great Barrier Reef, usually because the snorkeller was not a strong enough swimmer or was not adequately prepared.

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In 2017, 20 international tourists drowned in Australia , according to an annual government water safety report.

A Chinese tourist drowned in the Bahamas while snorkelling on July 16, according to the local Chinese embassy website. The embassy told tourists to choose quality companies for water activities, and to stay away from areas without lifeguards.

Fake romancers in Japan

China’s embassy in Japan warned tourists to be wary of “handsome men” and “beautiful women” involved in “passion scams”.

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The embassy said the scammers used chat apps to engage tourists in conversation, feigning feelings for the traveller or proposing romantic relationships. Tourists are then coaxed into lending money and giving gifts to the fake lovers.

The embassy warned of similar scams involving “friend introduction” services.

No VIP access in New Zealand

New Zealand’s Chinese embassy warned travellers against using travel agencies that claimed to have “VIP channels” at the embassy to help them obtain travel visas.

In a statement last week, the embassy rejected claims that it had granted agencies “cooperative partnerships” or “official authority” to provide the purported VIP service.