Switzerland Creates Special Trains For Chinese Tourists

Filed Under: Media, Travel

A lot of people rag on Chinese tourists. In many ways they’ve replaced Americans as the “dreaded” tourists. I think it’s largely a function of many Chinese tourists not being very experienced with visiting other countries, so they’re not as aware of cultural norms. Foreign tourism is still something very new for many people from China, and that can’t really be held against them.

We’ve seen all kinds of tourist hotspots respond to Chinese tourism by creating pamphlets about how to act, adding signs in Chinese, etc.

But here’s a unique “solution” from Mount Rigi, an area in the Alps which is apparently being frequented by Chinese tourists. After tons of complaints from other tourists they have a “solution” — they’re creating special trains exclusively for Chinese tourists.


Via BBC News:

A mountain resort in Switzerland is launching special train services for Chinese tourists to defuse tensions with other visitors, it is reported.

Noisy throngs of Chinese tourists disturb those who visit Mount Rigi in the Alps in search of peace and relaxation, reports the Swiss newspaper Blick.

They crowd the corridors while taking pictures from the train, there has been rudeness in packed carriages, and some even report seeing tourists spit on the floor, the paper says. Visitors from Asia have helped to bring the struggling local railway company back on track, but, according to its chief Peter Pfenniger, “their strong presence is a challenge”.

Almost half of the foreign visitors to Mount Rigi come from China following an advertising campaign there, and the number is growing. “Rigi seems to be firmly in Chinese hands!” Blick exclaims.

To help avoid any possible bad feeling, special trains have been laid on for tourist groups from Asia. Toilets are now cleaned more often, and signs have been put up “showing how to use them correctly”, the paper adds. In September, the number of train services for Chinese visitors is expected to rise to about 20 a week.

Not surprisingly this hasn’t gone down well with Chinese tourists, who feel like Mount Rigi is sort of looking a gift horse in the mouth, by trying to segregate their most frequent foreign tourists.

But are the Chinese tourists angry for good reason? What makes the situation unique is that Chinese tourists can still take the “ordinary” trains, and these special new train services are just meant to give them more options.


What say you — should Chinese tourists be offended that they’re being called out, or happy that they’re being catered to specifically?

On one hand this sure does feel sort of “separate but equal,” but on the other hand there’s nothing preventing them from taking the “regular” trains either.

  1. Even the Chinese government are trying really hard nowadays to educate their people before they start travelling around the world. I believe there has been some form of improvements over the year, but right now, we are still seeing many countries, including Asian countries, having a love-hate relationship with these group of tourists. On one hand, their spending power is probably gets really amazing at times; on the other hand, they tend to unintentionally (or maybe intentionally? I don’t know) ruin the moods of all other tourists around them.

    As an Asian myself, I actually don’t see a huge problem with what Mount Rigi is doing. Their solution may not be the most perfect, but that’s probably the best they can do to please more people visiting the place.

  2. ‘Cultural norms’ is one way to put it, I guess. Great concept on paper, but I’m not sure how to put it in practice without evoking memories of white/colored segregation. Maybe hire some Mandarin speakers and market them as Chinese language train cars?

  3. I can see where some Chinese might take umbrage, but it’s a great idea. The mainland Chinese have little experience with foreign travel and have a different way of looking at certain things, making this is a good way to reduce friction.

  4. I have just returned from visiting relatives in Switzerland and I noticed a special train for Chinese tourists going to the top of a very high mountain. I took the ‘regular’ train and once I arrived I found the place truly was loaded with Chinese tourists. I estimate that 30-40% of the tourists at the mountain top destination were Chinese. And, of course, it was very crowded.

    I don’t blame the Chinese. They were acting pretty good over all. But, when you have that many people, even a small percentage of jerks becomes a large presence.


    When we decided to hike back down the mountain instead of riding the train back we found that we not only lost 96% of the crowds but virtually all of the Chinese tourists. Nothing like going out on foot into the forest to lose the crowds, no matter who they are and where they come from.

    One more thing. Don’t mistakenly label a person from Hong Kong as Chinese. I did and was immediately corrected. “We are from Hong Kong, not China!” After that the HK folks joined our happy hiking group and we all had a great time.

  5. I’m also Asian but I believe segregation is never a good thing. Hasn’t anyone learned from history? What are they going to do next? Move the Indians and the Arabs to a different train too because of their different culture or will they move the gays and transgender for their differences?

  6. With the sudden boom of money in China many formerly poor people are elevated to middle class status along with the income and aspirations that come with it. It can’t be faulted that formerly poor rural people have no idea of other cultural norms so I think that this is a good “training” experience for them. Of course other Chinese who are already well traveled and aware of other cultural norms wouldn’t want nor need to take this train but its good for first timers and or inexperienced people

  7. Outright racist. I’m not a chinese and sometimes they did annoyed me when I was touring Europe last month. Hwoever, Mount Rigi is trying to take advantage of Asians spending power yet treating them as third class people by implementing apartheid policy. If Mount Rigi hates chinese/asian so much, why don’t they just ban Asian customers outright?
    I do agree that mainlander chinese have little experience in foreign travel, but isn’t that having more interaction with foreigners is the solution for the particular issue?

  8. Thank goodness we didn’t encounter these trains a few years ago when taking expensive Swiss trains up to glaciers. We are American Caucasians with two children, one adopted from China. I wonder how we Americans would have reacted in Europe if there had been some type of segregation for Americans, l’m thinking of those decades ago when the dollar was so strong in Europe. Maybe people need to think of people as individuals, not stereotype them as a group.

  9. As an ex-pat living in Lucerne, Switzerland, I see the large number of Asian visitors daily. Given the attitude, beliefs and xenophobic nature of the Swiss, this doesn’t really surprise me at all!

  10. Everyone crying “segregation” isn’t reading the post. It’s not mandatory for Chinese to take the special trains and they are still free to travel on the regular trains. It’s not really any different from guided tours being offered in different languages. I’d imagine some Chinese would welcome being on a train with signage in their own language.

    Perhaps those Chinese visitors who are upset can help to educate their countrymen about how to behave. There are uncouth visitors from everywhere but the Chinese we’ve encountered really take the cake.

  11. Can they have this special train end at a 5 thousand foot cliff? Maybe advertise it as an express descent? Good riddance to these vulgar hordes.

  12. I think the solution is to create Tour Group trains instead of Chinese trains. I do think trains for Chinese tourists because they are perceived “rude” is kinda offensive. Since it’s really only an issue in large group, why not just create essentially “chartered” train for tour groups?

    I think most Chinese tourists travel with tour groups. So this way you allow them to stay in their groups while making regular trains less dominated by any large groups.

    By the way, it should be all large tours. Not just Chinese tour groups.

  13. Sounds like outright xenophobia to me. As many other posters have pointed out, it’s reminiscent of the Deep South or the ugly days of apartheid in S. Africa

  14. While I don’t think this is an entirely bad idea.. some of the responses above make it seem like they are being FORCED to take the “Chinese Train”. As the article stated.. this is an OPTION.. comparing it to apartheid or some sort of Jim Crow solution is just plain idiotic. My wife is Thai and the problem is extremely common in Thailand. A famous Thai celebrity filmed her rude encounter with a large group of Chinese tourists and the video went viral in Thailand sparking a surge in anti Chinese sentiment. While the Thai military Junta is cozying up to the Chinese gov’t, the average Thai person cannot stand the mainland Chinese tourist (but they love their money! lol) . The irony being that many Thais see being Thai-Chinese as a status symbol….

  15. How about a train exclusively for the Swiss, so they don’t have to mix with ANY foreigners and their weird customs?

  16. As a non-Chinese asian.. I too am annoyed by the lack of manner and etiquette and just plain ol’ lack of indoor voice of the Chinese tourists when I travel or when they visit my city (which is pretty popular tourst destination.) Do I have a problem with this? Heck no. Should the Chinese people be offended by it? They should be offeded that their own people are behaving so badly that it has come down to having their own train. Before they get riled up about it, they should look to themselves and say.. holy cow,are our behavior so bad that people from other countries don’t want to be near us?? That’s what they should be saying.. but I doubt that’s what’s happening

  17. Having been in Lucerne for 6 days at the end of July, we would say it was 5 to 1 in their favor in the city itself. A lot of tour groups! We did Mount Rigi 4 to 1 and the screaming/ yelling was noticeable. We also did Stanserhorn and the ratio was 1 to 1! On Pilatus it was maybe 2 to 1 and finally on Titlis glacier we were at 3-4 to 1 but no real problem with the Chinese. They spend an average of 330 chfs per day according to a Swiss newspaper story the highest of all tourist!

  18. It’s not mandatory, folks. It’s just an option, one that the Chinese will likely appreciate. If they had an [insert your nationality and language] option for transportation in a foreign country that doesn’t speak your language, you’d probably take advantage of it.

    “Not as aware of cultural norms”…like not being inconsiderate, rude people.

  19. As much as I agree with the sentiment here (and boy do I ever), you kinda can’t. You can put signs up to keep the aisles clear, make rules about spitting and yelling and all that. Then you enforce those rules. That’s how you deal with this. Spit? BYE! Yell across a peaceful landscape. GIRL BYE. If they’re gonna separate people based on nationality, they might as well have colored bathrooms. And I want to reiterate, I GET IT…but, you just can’t.

  20. Separate trains or carriages for large tour groups sounds like a good idea no matter where they are from. With a separate train they can make all announcements in the appropriate language (English, Chinese, Russian).

  21. In almost any other country I wouldn’t this this was a huge deal. However, the Swiss tend to be openly racist and xenophobic, so I bet this will devolve quickly into de facto segregation.

  22. I’d like to chime in some of my thoughts from a different perspective. The Chinese people who behave badly were usually born and raised between the 60s to 70s and they were influenced by the Red Guard Cultural Revolution, in a negative way of course. They were unable and they didn’t want to go to school and have education. Now, these people are are around 40-50s and they have enogh money to travel overseas. No wonder why these old people behave like that, cuz they were once bad young people too

  23. I think most of you don’t understand what the train company is doing. These trains are additional services to cater to Chinese tour groups. This will lower their waiting times and allows them to spend more time enjoying the views from the top. So in contrary, there is no segregation, it’s just to meet demand so the trains are not that crowded anymore.

  24. I’m Chinese and I don’t see a problem with it either. Preferably it is by passport, as my entire family are US citizens and would much prefer to be in the train with other foreigners and not the urban-wealth-rural-manners (mandarin i is considerably less clunky) Chinese tourists

  25. I just want to reply to Alpha
    “Alpha says:
    August 28, 2015 at 11:53 am

    We should do the same in the US for European tourists, too.”
    They should do instead a train for stupid assholes like you.


  26. I am a Chinese born Chinese citizen. I felt offended and safely say I will never step a foot onto that mountain.

  27. But honestly, I believe many Chinese tourists ARE annoying. One major complain(or response) is language-barrier.

  28. @Stannis “‘Cultural norms’ is one way to put it, I guess. Great concept on paper, but I’m not sure how to put it in practice without evoking memories of white/colored segregation.”

    Well you are not really evoking that particular memory for either the Chinese or Switzerland, since that event is not part of their history. Granted there may be a corollary event in their histories, but the world does not revolve around US history. 🙂

  29. I think in terms of behaving badly, tourists from any country could have their own share. It may be that the Chinese tourists have become the largest group of visitors in popular destinations, the number of people behaving badly become more noticeable. If the train company sets aside train section for tour groups that happen to be mostly Chinese, that may not be a bad idea. As an individual traveler sometimes I try to avoid tour groups especially in museums, regardless of their nationality. But if the act is based on stereotyping, how is that different from the recent Napa train incident? (http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/25/us/napa-wine-train-laughing-while-black-feat/)

  30. @Xiaoran Its unfair to make it sound like chinese people back then didn’t want to go to school. Many had no choice in the matter and most the schools were not teaching anything of substance anyway. This was all the direct result of Mao and the government. I do believe that the behavior that people complain about when referring to mainland chinese tourists though is rooted in their society going through that time period.

  31. While they’re at it, can they make some pamphlets and educational signs for European visitors to the USA and specifically New York City?

    Chapter 1: Tipping
    Chapter 2: Saying “Excuse me” when you bump into someone walking down the sidewalk
    Chapter 3: No, I won’t go to the New Jersey Outlet malls with you 🙂

    Sorry, I could go on forever but I’ll stop there 😛

  32. I agree.
    Europeans are just as annoying as mainland Chinese tourists.
    No class at all.
    Also don’t lump Hong Konger w/ Chinese.
    Totally separate class.

  33. Maybe a sign for US visitors to the rest of the world to STOP tipping in the places where locals don’t do it?!

    brianna hoffner says:
    August 28, 2015 at 6:17 pm
    While they’re at it, can they make some pamphlets and educational signs for European visitors to the USA and specifically New York City?

    Chapter 1: Tipping
    Chapter 2: Saying “Excuse me” when you bump into someone walking down the sidewalk
    Chapter 3: No, I won’t go to the New Jersey Outlet malls with you 🙂

    Sorry, I could go on forever but I’ll stop there

  34. As a chinese who was born in mainland China and have lived in the U.S. for more than half of my life, I’m not offended and think it’s a good idea. I’m bothered by the rudeness of a lot of the mainland tourists. I think as long as they are not forced to be on a certain train, it’s a better experience for the rest of the tourists.

  35. Don’t know why they’ve taken it as an offence, as clearly these special services will be designed with more customisation to Chinese visitors (such as more notices in their native language, etc). It’s really no different than a tour group like Wendy Wu putting on Chinese orientated tours of foreign lands. What may be unacceptable in one culture, may be the norm in another that nobody gets upset about, and only become a problem when these cultures mix – as solutions go, this is pretty elegant, and as said here it’s only a voluntary choice, not a forced one.

  36. Behavior like this has nothing to with whether or not you went to school, it all depends on how you were raised at home.

    People may find having OPTIONAL trains for Chinese tourists to be offensive, but I guess it’s wrong to find their behavior offensive too? Nasty bathroom etiquette, spitting on the floors…no. I don’t care what you do in your own country, but when you visit another country, you should at least adapt your behavior somewhat to that country’s norms (that doesn’t mean that I will start spitting all over the floor when I’m in China, but I will try and avoid doing things that would piss off the locals).

  37. How about a separate train for blacks? They can of course still take the regular trains if they choose. No big deal, yeah?

  38. Sounds like a great idea. If these Chinese animals cant act human, then give them their own cattle car where they can spit shit and piss all over the floor.

  39. Chinese tour groups are horrible. I could not enjoy the Hermitage in St. Petersburg nor the Louvre in Paris because of just the sheer number of them. It was not in just these places, but in every major European city I have visited. And, they are sooo rude and selfish, and have no concept of manners or personal space. Their presence literally ruined my mom`s once in a lifetime trip I took her on this summer. We could not enjoy anything without being crowded out by them

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