BEIJING — The Chinese social network was in an uproar over comments — retracted and explained as a misstatement — that a future boutique Zadig & Voltaire hotel in Paris would not welcome Chinese tourists. The controversy brought back bad old memories of colonial days, when there was actually a sign posted on the bund that said, “Chinese and dogs not allowed.” It touched a nationalistic nerve that’s been raw for 100 years. Fortunately for Zadig & Voltaire, no one in China can pronounce the name, much less remember it. So the outrage lasted, oh, exactly a nanosecond. (Zadig & Voltaire since clarified that its founder, Thierry Gillier, meant to say: “the hotel would not be open to busloads of tourists, and did not intend in any way to offend Chinese tourists.”)
As the controversy faded, the Chinese went on their weeklong holiday celebrating both the Moon Festival and National Day. Combined, the entire nation was on vacation for eight days. The state government, in a rare gesture of generosity, decided to waive all tolls on motorways, which promptly turned all of them into parking lots. Cars were stuck for six to eight hours on the highway. Some people never got to their holiday destination at all.
This story first appeared in the October 10, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Even for some of those who managed to reach their holiday spot, the story did not end well. For example, on the scenic mountain Huashan, 10,000 people were stuck on top of the mountain. The park had sold tickets way beyond the capacity of the cable car and other park facilities. Tourists were stuck up there without food, water or shelter.
In major cities like Beijing, things did not fare better. On Oct. 4, only halfway through the holidays, the city sanitation department announced that it had already cleaned up five metric tons of garbage from Tiananmen Square alone. Apparently, tourists saw fit to dump all their garbage right on the square.
So after a crowded holiday fighting for motorway lanes, cable-car seats and overpriced bottled water, the nation went into self-reflection on the Internet.
“They all want Chinese money but not the Chinese,” said one Weibo.
“We do have people who behave atrociously and give Chinese tourists a bad name,” said another.
Despite the fact that many Chinese are also plagued and embarrassed by some Chinese behavior, no amount of self-reflection will change that behavior very soon. So if you want the business, you do need to brace yourself — a bit.