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China’s Biggest Online Travel Agency Is Teaching Etiquette to Bad-Mannered Tourists

November 29, 2018, 10:27 AM UTC

Jane Jie Sun runs Ctrip, China’s biggest online travel agency. Her company also doubles, inadvertently, as an etiquette school.

Sun said her business is committed to improving the reputation of China’s tourists, whose international standing has suffered amid reports of breached social norms during travels abroad. These incidents were once so bad—and frequent—that at a 2013 nadir, China’s then-Vice Premier Wang Yang issued a warning, saying the “uncivilized behavior” of the nation’s unlikely ambassadors was damaging their motherland’s image.

“A lot of people are so curious the first time they see the world, they’re so excited they try to take pictures even on the street,” Sun said at Fortune’s Global Tech Forum at the Four Seasons Hotel in Guangzhou, China, on Thursday. (A video livestream of the event is available here.)

Sun noted that Ctrip seeks to teach first-time travelers better manners through email dispatches, updates on Tencent’s WeChat app, in-person training sessions at the company’s offices, and online videos. Some of the lessons imparted: don’t litter, avoid carving graffiti into landmarks, and act and dress respectfully in places that expect decorum, like churches.

Sun’s remarks were prompted by a question put forward by a member of the audience: George Yip, professor of marketing and strategy at Imperial College London’s business school. He had asked whether Ctrip would “make it its mission” to address Chinese tourists’ bad rap.

Sun replied affirmatively, noting that American tourists and Japanese tourists once dealt with similar allegations of misbehavior overseas. The stereotypes come in “waves,” she said.

Sun, who appeared on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women’s list this year, became CEO of Ctrip in 2016. She joined the company as its chief financial officer in 2005, later rising to the role of chief operating officer before taking the helm.

Interestingly, Sun’s husband, John Wu, was the first chief technology officer at Chinese Internet giant Alibaba, a company that has risen to become one of Ctrip’s biggest rivals in the online travel market.

Even in the face of competition, Sun keeps it cordial. “I think every platform has a different strength,” she said, noting her own business’ joint ventures with Tencent.