Monday, 3 February 2014

Mainland Invasion of Anarctica

Chinese tourists getting up close with some blue-eyed shags in Antarctica
Cai Mingdong is a 36-year-old former financial journalist who now runs a company that offers tailor-made tours for China's nouveaux riche.

He himself had travelled extensively in Europe and North Africa when he studied in the UK from 2002 and 2003. After he came back to Ningbo he became a financial and property reporter, interviewing the wealthy and became fascinated to learn how they spent their money in their free time.

Cai Mingdong offers tailored tours for China's rich
Then in 2010 he was driving around in New Zealand and when he was at one tourist attraction, he was surrounded by mainland tourists.

"They were really interested in my car trip, thinking it was much more interesting and adventurous than the organized trip they were on. Some even wanted to quit the tour group and join me. I suddenly thought I had found a way to sail into a 'blue oceans' market," he said.

He knew that there were wealthy people who were limited by the tour routes and felt he could offer them something more memorable and worthwhile. Some itineraries include a summer camp to play at the Kobe Bryant basketball academy in the United States, a camping and driving trip around New Zealand, see art and history museums in Europe and investigate America's property market.

Cai says his company looks after everything, from applying for visas, renting vehicles and contacting local property agents and universities.

While we applaud Cai for filling a niche market, it is also disturbing to find that more Chinese tourists are keen to visit Antarctica in increasing numbers.

Over the Lunar New Year holiday, a group of more than 100 mainlanders visited the Antarctic Great Wall Station on King George Island close to Chile, overwhelming the scientists as they were trying to go about their work, Xinhua reported.

More than 2,300 mainlanders paid up to 500,000 yuan to visit the southern continent from November 2011 to March 2012.

A group of mainland tourists visiting Antarctica
As a result some academics, including Dai Bin, director of the China Tourism Academy, are calling for some kind of regulations to limit the visitors' impact on this sensitive environment.

China issued its Tourism Law last year, but this was mainly a guideline on how tourists should behave when visiting overseas. It does not include specific offenses with penalties nor any mention of the Antarctic.

Last year freelance travel writer Zhang Yifan joined a tour of 200 mainland tourists to Antarctica.

"I don't think mainland tourists behaved differently compared with those from other countries," Zhang said. "Anyone would get excited to see wild penguins in their native Antarctic habitat. I didn't see anyone throwing rubbish or spitting. The only problem was that sometimes tourists got a bit closer to photograph animals than the tour guide had advised them."

Nevertheless Dai believes the tourists should be respecting the environment and not disturbing scientists who are there conducting research. "It's understandable that we all admire rare animals, but Antarctica is not a campus," he said.


  1. I've said it before and I'll say it again: mainland tourists should not be let out of the mainland before they understand what the rest of the world considers to be "civilized" vs "uncivilized" behavior.

    Yesterday and today, I've seen Mainland children (yesterday, aged around 10 years, today, aged around 3 years) peeing in public on a sidewalk in Hong Kong. That their parents openly let them makes the offense even worse! :(

    1. HI YTSL -- They would argue that your definition of "civilized" behaviour is a western one, not Chinese... and the pedantics would go on forever... But yes urinating in public is a public health risk and they obviously did not read the Tourism Law that was enacted last year!


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