The Paris syndrome drives Chinese tourists away
NEW YORK. KAZINFORM An epidemic is gripping Chinese tourists visiting the French capital: the Paris syndrome.
Like their Japanese counterparts, first-time visitors from China -- fed on media reports and movies like "An American in Paris," or "Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amelie Poulain" -- arrive expecting to see a quaint, affluent and friendly European city with smartly dressed men and women smelling of Chanel No. 5.
Instead, they discover Paris's grittier side -- packed metros, rude waiters and pickpockets intent on robbing cash-carrying tourists -- all of which sends them into psychological shock, Bloomberg reports.
"Chinese people romanticize France, they know about French literature and French love stories" said Jean-Francois Zhou, president of the Chinese association of travel agencies in France. "But some of them end up in tears, swearing they'll never come back."
For France, continuing to attract Chinese tourists, about a million of whom visit Paris every year, is key to rekindle an economy that stagnated in the second quarter, figures released yesterday by national statistics office Insee showed. Tourism accounted for 7.2 percent of France's GDP in 2012, according to the Tourism Satellite Account.
Now, the boom in Chinese tourists is beginning to slow, partly because of reluctance to spend large sums in the face of President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption crackdown, and partly because of concern about the welcome awaiting them in Paris, Zhou said.
For 20-year-old Jiang He, disappointment set in soon after landing in the French capital. The college student from Shanghai, who chose Paris for his first-ever overseas trip last year, was told soon after landing at Roissy airport that a fellow Chinese tourist's luggage had been stolen.
He was also surprised to see Paris streets littered with cigarette butts and trash, he said in an interview.
"I thought Europe would be a very clean place but I found that Paris is quite dirty and French people don't really care about cleanliness," Jiang said.
Although less numerous than Americans, 900,000 Chinese tourists descended on the Paris region last year, almost half the 1.7 million visitors to France from the country, Thomas Deschamps, head of the Paris Tourism Office, said in a telephone interview. That was a 23 percent increase from 2012.
So far this year, the growth has been 11 percent compared with the same period in 2013.
"The number of Chinese visitors is still growing, but not as fast as before," Deschamps said.
Shopping in Paris
Chinese tourists also aid the economy as consumers. About 60 percent of them went shopping in Paris in 2012, according to a report by the city's tourism office, snapping up items such as bags from Louis Vuitton and Chanel and Hermes scarves. They spent 59 euros ($79) a day on average, slightly more than the 56 euros shelled out by the Japanese and more than double the average 26 euros.
Because they carry large amounts of cash, Chinese tourists are often targeted by pickpockets.
"Sometimes, they'll try to pay for an ice cream with a 500-euro bill," Zhou said. They usually convert large amounts of yuan to limit money-changing fees, and the use of credit cards isn't as common in China as it is in Europe, he said.
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