Media Mashup: july 21, 2015

The author at the Great Wall of China
The author at the Great Wall of China

Tourism: China Gets It; U.S. Doesn’t

Upon arrival to the United States after a lengthy trip to China, I came face to face with what ails the U.S. travel industry: airline personnel.

I had flown more than 16 hours from Guangzhou (formerly known as Canton), China, to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. China Southern, a “partner” with Delta Airlines, had a direct flight. I thought a short hop from New York to Philly would be easy. Was I ever wrong!

Although the Guangzhou flight was two hours late because of weather in China, I had nearly an hour to make the connection. Then I met the Delta supervisor from hell. Despite having a first-class ticket, I was placed at the end of an angry group of 50 people trying to deal with Delta. Even though I implored the supervisor and counter personnel to give me a boarding pass, they failed to acknowledge my problem. After being told I could not board the Delta flight to Philly because I had arrived too late, I went to find the supervisor. I raised my index finger to make a point. She reached for her walkie talkie to summon police because I had “threatened” her.

Contrast this customer service with what I saw throughout China. During my business trip, I had scheduled some sight-seeing excursions. I had paid $40 each for two bus tours. I received two private tours instead with no extra charge because there weren’t enough English-speaking tourists to fill a bus. July and August are prime vacation time for the Chinese, not foreign visitors.

When an internal flight was late by more than six hours and arrived at 4:30 a.m., I found the driver I had arranged to meet me still waiting to take me to Beijing–an hour ride for $50. He got my heartiest thanks and a big tip!

The tourist attractions, subways and taxis have English translations that made it easier for me to tour China. When I arrived at JFK last weekend, it was difficult to find someone who spoke English I could understand.

China may have many foibles, but people understand that the tourist is king. That is far from true in the U.S. travel industry.

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