The Australian Dream? Not for Chinese tourists!

Bondi Beach on a nice day
Originally Uploaded by NWT2005

Living in Sydney is a very interesting experience. I arrived in Oz a little over 5 years ago and took up residence down on Bondi Beach. Living near a beach is very interesting, but to live near a world famous beach means that strange and wonderful things come to you.

Once or twice a week I cycle into work and I usually cycle along the promenade down by the beach front of Bondi to check out the surf. For locals (you become one after about a year given this exceeds the amount of time a back packer will be there) we are always amused by the Asian tourist that arrive every morning still wearing their black suits, a very un-beach looking attire, and will watch them filter onto the beach like a black tide. One morning I was even asked to have my picture taken with an Asian couple who were fasinated to see me dressed up in my cycling gear, previously either wearing a surf life saver uniform or wet suit would be the pre-requisite to earn the honour of having you picture taken.

However I always felt there was something darker to the whole experience and so I was shocked, but not very surprised, to find out that Asian tourist companies are fleecing these visitors. The list starts with charging $100 to walk to walk Bondi beach. God knows what they think when they see me on my bike with my helmet on as I buzz past them, maybe that I dropped a load of cash on a season pass.

Though for an observant person some thing foul should have been flagged a long time ago. If you spend any time around Sydney you find these tourist/souvenir shops dotted around the city that are never normally open, except when a tour bus arrives. They are usually fairly non-discript office buildings, but you can see the slew of stuffed Koalas and Kangaroos inside. When the bus pulled up there are usually people standing outside with the implied threat not too enter. It never really entered my mind why. I suppose naively I had assumed that the tourist were getting a better deal than the locals, but the reality appears to be much more sour with the tour operators :

Locking tourists in shops and confiscating passports until they spend big on overpriced goods”

Having been a tourist in another country a few times and well aware of the two prices for items taking advantage of visitors might seem fair game. However it is one thing to have them innocently make the mistake and have every opportunity to walk away, it is another thing to have it mandated by greedy tour operators.

Not having the language obviously puts them at a disadvantage with virtually all communications these tourists get are from the operators. One way to break the chain might be at the customs check point. If the government could supply a pamphlet with what is and isn’t acceptable in there own language possibly with a phone number to contact to report violations. I have seen this work before, either for quarantine or during the SARs scare a few years ago, I suppose it comes down to how much of a dent to Australian reputation they are willing to tolerate.

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