A case of Chinese whispers?

11 March 2011 by
A case of Chinese whispers?

There is a tendency among economists and other experts to present their findings in apocalyptic tones. This adds drama to the news they impart and is intended to strike fear in their audiences, often with great success.

Warnings include the impending catastrophe wrought on our planet by driving instead of cycling to work and an equally alarming assessment of what will happen to our country if the price of oil goes too high.

We're told to expect floods and droughts, a shortage of food and an obesity epidemic all at the same time. There's nowhere to turn for so much as a crumb of comfort. As for the nation's finances, we're fast running out of superlatives to describe the mess we're in.

So what is the latest blood-chilling piece of news? China, of course. Yes, the Chinese are coming and we are totally unprepared - once again the hospitality industry has been caught napping and needs to be jolted from its torpor by some hard hitting statistics from the experts. And this is what they say.

Within five years over 100 million Chinese tourists will be taking holidays outside their own country, spending more than £100b in the process. How could this be anything but good news?

Well, we've managed somehow to make this a bad news story by placing obstacles in their way. Apparently our visa forms are more complicated than those required for entry into the rest of Europe and they are not available in Mandarin. Secondly, hardly anyone here speaks the language. As private Fraser would say to captain Mainwaring, "we're doomed!"

But surely these two factors are simple enough to fix? One is an administrative measure that our politicians, if they are serious about growing the value of tourism, could put right at a stroke. The other will solve itself as soon as greater numbers of Chinese visitors start coming here.

Demand for fluent speakers will create employment opportunities for many of those visitors and their skills will then be passed on. The prospect of winning new business is all that's needed for our industry to respond positively. All we require is the removal of that first obstacle and the market can take care of the rest.

If you doubt this, think of all the superb ethnic restaurants that have flourished here and the country house hotels that opened during our Anglo-American renaissance in the 1980s.

A rich new source of business in the form of wealthy Chinese people with a desire to explore the diversity of this country is greatly to be welcomed and I have no doubt we shall measure up to the opportunity. It's good news. Be happy.

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