China: ‘Noodles crisis’ lands Maldives hotels in hot waterBy Michele Penna Mar 20, 2013 12:16PM UTC
While tensions still linger over the South China Sea and the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, a new issue is rapidly emerging in the Indian Ocean: a “noodles crisis” between China – better, Chinese tourists – and the Maldives. Accusations began to appear on the web in the past weeks, when reports of discrimination at the hands of Maldivian resorts emerged on Chinese social media.
Taste matters, and many Chinese tourists do not seem to enjoy Maldivian food, preferring instead to consume a quick cup of noodles in their hotel rooms. However, as money matters, too, hotel managers have reportedly started removing kettles from rooms rented by Chinese mainlanders. This, in turn, has fuelled anger and accusations of racism.
The Nanjing-based Oriental Guardian – as reported by Want China Times – also quoted a tourist complaining that Chinese visitors are the only ethnic group asked to undertake a swimming test before diving in the ocean and that even those Chinese who pass it are only allowed to dive three meters deep and charged extra money.
A special case has been that of the The Beach House Iruveli holiday resort, whose directors were accused of discrimination by the resort’s former guest service manager Zhao Jianke. According to the South China Morning Post, Mr. Zhao wrote on Weibo – the Chinese Twitter – that since the new general manager assumed office in December 2012 employees have been required to treat Chinese tourists in a different way from other guests. In order to prevent them from cooking, the staff had to “remove the kettles in every Chinese tourist’s room, while the kettles in the rooms of European tourists remained”. He added that the hotel did not cave in to complaints.
The Global Times, a Chinese state-owned paper, quoted Mr. Zhao as saying that he and other Chinese employees quit their jobs in February after security personnel began surveilling Chinese employees and “confiscated their phones, blocked their Internet and controlled their external communications”.
The South China Morning Post obtained an official statement from The Beach Hotel Iruveli which “dismissed the accusations as ‘defamatory’ and denied treating Chinese guests differently”, noting the importance of the Chinese market for their business.
In the meantime, the story is spreading quickly and posts are stockpiling on Sina Weibo. Xia Wutong, an Internet user, plays down the whole issue saying that “it is normal for people to bring some bowls of noodles as eating in touristic areas is very expensive, not to mention the food there is not tasty”. Another user points out that culinary differences are a factor: “they all think it is about money, but actually another possibility why they are having noodles is that they are not used to local food. Chinese people are picky about what they eat”.
There have been angry reactions, too. Niuzaide Very De Mang encourages wealthy Chinese to buy the whole archipelago and leave nothing but noodles to eat, while Baobao Bo Dou Luo says Beijing should go take strong measures: “People Liberation Army, get it done, speed is everything”. VipTing Ting takes a more nationalistic view: “they discriminate against Chinese customers, I cannot believe such a small country dares bully our nation!”
Many are now calling for a general boycott to hit the Maldives’ tourism industry, which heavily relies on Chinese customers. According to China Xinhua News Agency, in 2012 the islands received 230,000 Chinese tourists, who accounted for 24% of all foreign visitors. Data also highlights an increase of over 15 per cent on the year before, suggesting huge potential for the future market.