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.

Please send suggestions and tips to charper@temple.edu

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