Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Understanding Chinese Tourism on Hainan Island, South China

Go Frontiers director Gary Rice, recently returned from China after being approached by a Chinese consultancy advising on expanding a 4A tropical and heritage Tourist Park at Hainan Island, near Vietnam.

Local Research
Gary researched a local heritage centre and surrounding towns to provide training on UK tourism concepts and ideas to the owners and managers on how to develop a theme park in China.

Before flying out Gary visited the local DH Lawrence Heritage Centre at Durban House in Eastwood which portrays the life and works of the famous author, whose books featured the dehumanizing industrialisation of the mines and heavy industry across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

The research focus was on customer service and 'Access for All', including facilities for the different visitor age groups, disabled people, children's buggies and baby changing areas.
Other UK tourism concepts where researched in the landscapes and wildlife of the tourist towns of Buxton, Bakewell and Cromford canal.

Gary cited these examples of good practices during his presentations on the Chinese/foreign tourist's needs which required incorporating into the development plans.

"If one member of a family cannot access a tourist destination due to the lack of facilities and accessibility then that family will go else where, resulting in loss revenue, so it is important to get it correct in the planning and development stage," he said.

Arrive as Mystery Guests and Assess the Tropical Heritage Tourist Parks on Hainan Island's China as an ancient country is still a mystery to most westerners. However in the last thirty years much of China has advanced technologically but many places are still undeveloped.
China is a country full of attraction and surprises.

Therefore, arriving on Hainan Island (south China) as mystery guests and spending 10 days working in the jungle was no mean fete, but a great opportunity for Go Frontiers.

The people of Hainan Island are very friendly, honest, helpful and never hassle you into buy anything. Not sure if this was to do with the 'binlang' drug that many locals were seen chewing or sold in the local markets.

The Island has some of the very best scenic views, places to visit and lots to learn about the tropical environment and Island culture.

Accessing the tourist parks Gary noticed many attractions lacking in facilities and were not accessible to senior tourists, tourists with disabilities or young children/babies, resulting in loss revenue for the parks.

Basically, this is down to the tourist attractions not being family friendly, with too many steps, no hand rails, no ramps, no lifts or provide very few clean, seating areas, meaning that the parks where unsuitable for children's buggies, wheelchairs, and too many tripping hazards for the young and elderly.

Some places have made the effort to install disabled toilets but they have been designed wrong and so a wheelchair user can't get in the cubicle or the ramps have been made too steep making it a 'Herculean' effort.

On a lighter note many tourist parks had signs translated wrong. One sign said 'Staff Only', which was located next to a cliff edge. Basically only staff are allowed to climb over and fall to their death. It's the best HR policy I've seen for reducing staff levels. 

The second sign at the well known Nanshan Guanyinyuan Buddhist park explained the staff's duties. One of these duties was to 'Execute tourists in the most advantageous manor'.

These signs defiantly make you laugh.

Understanding Chinese Tourists
The biggest problems the tourist parks and hotels face are the Chinese tourist tour groups or should say social terrorists. Watching the Chinese tour groups arrive at the parks it was obvious that the Chinese have more human rights than any one in the west.

They drop litter every where, climb on the unprotected historical structures for photos and vandalise the bamboo, tropical plants and historical buildings by carving their names on it. In the UK where not allowed to do this. We'd get fined.  

The Chinese may have advanced technologically but they are slow to care about their environment, or history. What they don't understand is that once it's been damaged or destroyed it's gone forever.

The Chinese tour group's behavior wasn't much better when they descended on the five star Hna Hotel, where Gary stayed.

Watching the tour behavior in the hotel restaurant was appalling to see them shoving and pushing for the tables and food. Any one would have thought that the hotel was going to run out of food.

Many Chinese from the developed areas of China do have good social and table manors but the less developed Chinese are loud and at each meal would pile up two plates of food each, make chomping and slurping noises as they ate with their chins on the table and at intervals would make a load throat growl and then spit on the five star restaurant floor.

Several Chinese used the table cloth instead of a napkin to wipe their mouths and much of food went to waste.

The reason for this is that many of these Chinese used to be poor but with China becoming more developed they now have better living standards and more money to travel and see the world. Their social skills will improve in time.

Whenever you hear the load Chinese throat growl it's a question of which way do you move? Move left, move right or stay still and hope you don't get spat on. 

Attempting to use the natural hot spring (pool) wasn't much better. It was either being empted, filled or filthy. On inspection there was always a thick layer of skin and dirt floating on top of the water from the Chinese cleaning them selves. The idea of a hot spring is to lie back and relax but as always the Chinese had different ideas.

This really annoyed the pool manager as this became a full time job of emptying and refilling the pool throughout the day.

Understanding the Culture around the Parks
Even taking a walk to the nearest town had its dangers as many manhole covers were missing or badly damaged. It's not the place to go out walking at night.

Neither was it safe using the three wheeled taxi motorcycles which have no suspension and the roads have potholes. Gary found this out to his expense when his three wheeled taxi hit a pothole damaging his back for three days.  

Eating out most restaurants was hard going and too dirty to eat in. Most restaurant staff didn't understand what vegetarian meant even if you told them no meat, no fish and for this reason many dishes got sent back to the kitchen.

All the restaurants Go Frontiers ate in used far too much cooking oil and MSG causing stomach issues and having to use the dreaded Chinese style toilet (hole in the ground).
Most Chinese toilets didn't have soap for washing your hands.

Gary was really pleased to see more and more Chinese being able to afford holidays and travel abroad. The Chinese are really nice and welcoming people however their are many aspects that can be improved on with regards to social behaviour.  

Deliver Training to Owners and Managers
The training given by Gary and his business partner on Hainan Island was very successful, resulting in the consultancy winning the long term training contract. The park is planning to upgrade to a 5A park and develop the next phase, including a 'Golden Medicine Buddha', and luxury 5 star hotels at a cost of millions of pounds, with the prospect of Go Frontiers providing more training to make staff ready for the next challenge.

Councillor Ian Tyler, cabinet member for arts, leisure and culture at Broxtowe Borough Council, which manages the Eastwood centre with the University of Nottingham, said: “We are delighted that D. H. Lawrence Heritage has been used as an example of good practice for accessibility to public buildings.

"We get visitors from all over the world including China and we are more than happy to share our positive experience and knowledge with them."
The Chinese are great people to teach and are always interested to learn new ideas and concepts. This in its self is very rewarding for Gary and makes training in China so enjoyable.

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