A Chinese company has treated 6,400 members of staff to a four-day holiday in France, booking 140 hotels in Paris and 4,700 rooms on the Cote d’Azur.
The employees of Tiens Group, a conglomerate chaired by one of China’s business billionaires, Li Jinyuan, is the biggest tour group to ever visit France. During the four-day break between Paris and Nice the group is expected to spend €13 million (£9.5 million) on hotels, food and excursions including a mass private viewing of the Louvre museum and a trip to the Moulin Rouge cabaret show.
On Friday 147 buses took the group from their four or five-star hotels to the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, where they formed the words “Tiens’ dream is Nice in the Cote d’Azur”, in a record-breaking “longest human-made phrase”.
Employees of Chinese company “Tiens” at the parade in Nice, France (Getty Images)
“We have have mobilised public services as well as tourism professionals, hotels, restaurants, shops and designer brands,” Christian Mantel, head of Atout France, a tourism development agency, told AFP.
“So far everything has gone smoothly, the feedback has been extremely positive.”
Mr Li, who was featured on Forbes 2011 list of the world’s billionaires, founded Tiens Group in 1995. The conglomerate has diverse business in biotechnology, logistics, finance, property, tourism and retail and has more than 12,000 employees, half of whom went to France to celebrate the company’s 20th anniversary.
Employees of the TIENS Group attend a parade organized by CEO Li Jinyuan as part of a four-day celebration weekend for the 20th anniversary of the company (AP)
Overseas tourism has boomed in China since restrictions on foreign travel have been relaxed and rising economic growth has created a new middle class keen to see the world. Last year some 107 million made overseas trips.
A report by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch found that Chinese tourists now spend $164 billion a year, a figure set to rise to $264 billion by 2019.
Li Jinyuan sent half his team on a two-day trip to Paris and two-day trip to Nice, France (AP)
Yet in recent years the Chinese have also become obsessed with the idea that their citizens are badly behaved abroad and contribute to a bad national reputation, something which whether true or not the government repeatedly attempts to redress.
In one incident, a young Chinese man was photographed writing graffiti on an ancient Egyptian temple in Luxor. Then, in December, a plane headed to Nanjing had to turn back to Bangkok after a group of passengers scalded a Thai stewardess with steaming noodles. Such incidents have made “the Chinese people blush with shame,” the National Tourism Administration said on its website.
The parade continues…
On microblog sites Chinese internet users expressed concern that such a large group in France would further tarnish the county’s image abroad. “The pictures are shocking,” wrote one user, Zhouminghua, on Sina Weibo. “I’m afraid that they don’t understand and respect foreign cultures. We’ve suffered enough from this problem.”