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Are fewer westerners traveling in China now?

Are fewer westerners traveling in China now?

Old Jun 20, 19, 9:45 pm
  #1  
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Are fewer westerners traveling in China now?

Just a question based upon my last 2 weeks of travel to big cities in the west and south of China. In many of these big cities like Chongqing and Changsha I didn't see another western face the entire time I was there, including the hotel, train stations and airport. This struck me as different from before. It is definitely becoming harder for foreigners to travel around China with the train station/ticketing policy being discriminatory to foreigners and the rise of mobile payments for everything which foreigners who don't live here have no way of using. It's also just more of a hassle to visit China with 15 minute check in times at hotels and endless security inspections everywhere from train stations to airports to even subways which is ridiculous. Has the bloom gone off the rose for travelers? I still see plenty of westerners in the 4 tier one cities but elsewhere I seem to remember more than now.
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Old Jun 21, 19, 7:33 am
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Talking to people that I know in the travel business in China, it appears that the number of foreign visitors is down this year. I don't think that it is because it has become harder; people who never went to China would not know that. And it is actually much easier than before. Do you forget what it was like to buy train tickets just a few years ago? And the subway, fully bilingual, is now in most major cities and covers everything. I doubt that the 3 seconds security checks in subways bother anybody.
What should have more impact is the political situation. With stuff like trading wars, people are concerned about who they will be treated by locals. Plus you have the warnings issued by various governments about the risks of traveling to China (risk of random detention, etc.). Based on the questions of potential travelers on various travel forum, this is the real issue.
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Old Jun 21, 19, 9:12 am
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I've looked for statistics, but I get the impression many more Westerners travel to China in groups. If you're at a big tourist site (Forbidden City, Great Wall, Terracotta Warriors), you'll see them. If you travel independently, you're not as apt to encounter them on trains or walking down the street. Justified or not, the perception is that independent travel in China is difficult. (I didn't think so.)
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Old Jun 21, 19, 2:03 pm
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Originally Posted by travelinmanS View Post
It's also just more of a hassle to visit China with 15 minute check in times at hotels
What does that mean?
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Old Jun 21, 19, 7:52 pm
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Originally Posted by Deltus View Post
What does that mean?
It means it takes a lot longer to process a check in for foreigners at hotels in China than it does in most other countries.
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Old Jun 21, 19, 8:22 pm
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I certainly have the impression that Western tourism to China has been in decline for 30 years, almost precisely 30 years.

There was a time when young Westerners were exploring, or trying to explore, just about every corner of China. That era seems long gone.

Similarly, Western tour groups. They used to inundate places like the Forbidden City.

Of course domestic tourism has boomed in this period. Not only do overseas tourists no longer count for much in overall importance -- they used to be a strong source of foreign exchange and big business for hotels -- but to the extent they are still there, they get lost in the overwhelming masses of Chinese tourists.
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Old Jun 21, 19, 10:20 pm
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This is an interesting question. I generally don't recommend people come to China any more unless they have a strong interest in history. It is more enjoyable for first-time visitors to Asia to go to Japan, Thailand or Singapore and let's face it, China is feeling more and more like a police state. Not ideal for an enjoyable, relaxing vacation.

JPDM- Friday I had about a 15-20 minute delay entering Xujiahui Station Subway (a major station in Shanghai for those who may not know). They were scanning everyone's ID cards or passports on temporary (and too few) inspection stations. This was done before you got to the luggage screeners. It used to be rare, but I seem to run into it somewhere every month now. It's not just the time but the manner in which everything was done, security in train stations is a model of courtesy in comparison. The entire time I was there a French lady was trying to explain that her passport was at a consulate for a visa application. I never saw her get in, hopefully she made it. She did say to me she may give up and just go find a taxi.

I have seen this and frankly much worse in Xinjiang but I did not expect it in Shanghai. Fortunately it is not often, but if you compare this to going to Thailand.... So I consider who is asking before making a recommendation to visit China or not. Also perceptions lag, I get far more questions about the pollution (which has seen noticeable improvement) than the tighter public security. People are not aware of it yet so I don't think it is a major factor.
Overall I think many Europeans and North Americans who had interested to see China have already done so and once was enough. Plus, China is not as unknown and exotic as it used to be. I think this is the major factor in the small decline of visitors from Europe and NA.
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Old Jun 21, 19, 10:44 pm
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Originally Posted by travelinmanS View Post
Just a question based upon my last 2 weeks of travel to big cities in the west and south of China. In many of these big cities like Chongqing and Changsha I didn't see another western face the entire time I was there, including the hotel, train stations and airport. This struck me as different from before. It is definitely becoming harder for foreigners to travel around China with the train station/ticketing policy being discriminatory to foreigners and the rise of mobile payments for everything which foreigners who don't live here have no way of using. It's also just more of a hassle to visit China with 15 minute check in times at hotels and endless security inspections everywhere from train stations to airports to even subways which is ridiculous. Has the bloom gone off the rose for travelers? I still see plenty of westerners in the 4 tier one cities but elsewhere I seem to remember more than now.
I'm out of here on Monday.
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Old Jun 21, 19, 11:06 pm
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I've also seen the ID check inside Metro stations: they stand at the top of the escalators coming up from the platform -- no escape! -- checking IDs at random. In that case, foreigners were passed by.
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Old Jun 21, 19, 11:32 pm
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Originally Posted by uanj View Post
This is an interesting question. I generally don't recommend people come to China any more unless they have a strong interest in history. It is more enjoyable for first-time visitors to Asia to go to Japan, Thailand or Singapore and let's face it, China is feeling more and more like a police state. Not ideal for an enjoyable, relaxing vacation.

JPDM- Friday I had about a 15-20 minute delay entering Xujiahui Station Subway (a major station in Shanghai for those who may not know). They were scanning everyone's ID cards or passports on temporary (and too few) inspection stations. This was done before you got to the luggage screeners. It used to be rare, but I seem to run into it somewhere every month now. It's not just the time but the manner in which everything was done, security in train stations is a model of courtesy in comparison. The entire time I was there a French lady was trying to explain that her passport was at a consulate for a visa application. I never saw her get in, hopefully she made it. She did say to me she may give up and just go find a taxi.

I have seen this and frankly much worse in Xinjiang but I did not expect it in Shanghai. Fortunately it is not often, but if you compare this to going to Thailand.... So I consider who is asking before making a recommendation to visit China or not. Also perceptions lag, I get far more questions about the pollution (which has seen noticeable improvement) than the tighter public security. People are not aware of it yet so I don't think it is a major factor.
Overall I think many Europeans and North Americans who had interested to see China have already done so and once was enough. Plus, China is not as unknown and exotic as it used to be. I think this is the major factor in the small decline of visitors from Europe and NA.

I live close to Xujiahui and I've never seen this type of ID check but with the random checks of local ID cards happening almost daily I knew it would be a matter of time before foreigners were included. Yesterday at Hongqiao airport there was a 20 deep queue just to scan luggage to get on the subway, which is ridiculous seeing as how everyone is coming off a flight. The new thing targeting foreigners specifically, is going to bars that they frequent and holding everyone there for drug testing. Test positive for anything and you're deported, doesn't matter if you just came from Amsterdam or Colorado. They have also tightened up on the use of VPNs which don't work nearly as well as before, which directly impacts foreigners much more than locals. The police presence has notably increased since Xi Jinping took over and it makes things neither fun nor easy for foreigners living in China. All in all there are still more positives than negatives about living here, but the negatives are gaining rapidly whilst the positives are declining.
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Old Jun 22, 19, 12:24 am
  #11  
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China was never a part of this classic SE countries for backpackers.
If you wanna travel SE Asia, you go to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand etc..... but not to China.
It's too expensive when you travel on a low budget plus the most SE countries are visa free for many travellers or you can get a VOA easily but China.
US/Canadians can get a 10 years visa, Europeans can't.
And the costs for a tourist visa incl. all these service fees increased the last years and it's not cheap anymore.
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Old Jun 22, 19, 12:44 am
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In the 15 years Iíve been going to and from China,two of the biggest changes Iíve come across have been mobile pay points (without the ability to use cash), and prices increasing for hotels without improving quality.

No matter which hotel one might stay at (canít comment on the ultra-luxe), no smoking rules are still rarely enforced, the internet is often useless (though wi-fi is all over the place in China), and local behavior is...local (e.g. leaving hotel room doors open while having loud mahjong bouts/yelling down the hall/asking front desk staff in which room the foreigner is staying).

Sure, the food and mass transit are still cheap, and some sites are spectacular, but Beijing and Shanghai hotels leave me wondering why I didnít go to Japan instead.
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Old Jun 22, 19, 12:49 am
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Originally Posted by qpr View Post
China was never a part of this classic SE countries for backpackers.
If you wanna travel SE Asia, you go to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand etc..... but not to China.
It's too expensive when you travel on a low budget plus the most SE countries are visa free for many travellers or you can get a VOA easily but China.
US/Canadians can get a 10 years visa, Europeans can't.
And the costs for a tourist visa incl. all these service fees increased the last years and it's not cheap anymore.
In spite of my post upthread, I still like China on the whole.

That having been said, I am returning to the USA because the overall quality of living is better.

With respect to backpackers teaching English, this not common anymore. Sure you can get private gigs in apartments, but working at an actual school requires an RP.
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Old Jun 22, 19, 4:41 am
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I have a friend who is an English teacher in Hangzhou -- US citizen, but Mexican ancestry. He has been receiving police station checks 3 times per week.

I don't want to risk stating anything too political here, but recent developments are shocking.

My friend is a far better English teacher than an a random girl from Henan. Fluency in the language is a big deal.
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Old Jun 22, 19, 4:48 am
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Originally Posted by travelinmanS View Post


It means it takes a lot longer to process a check in for foreigners at hotels in China than it does in most other countries.
Hmm, I haven't noticed a particular problem there - the taking a copy of your passport always seems over the top, but that happens in continental Europe too.
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