Locals made to give up seats for foreigners at Chinese tourist spot, sparking outrage

Central China’s Hubei province found itself in the midst of a social media firestorm recently when a prominent travel influencer accused a tourist attraction of discriminating against local visitors in favour of foreign tourists. The controversy erupted at the Shengshi Tangcheng tourist site in Xiangyang city, a renowned Tang dynasty-themed destination, leaving thousands of tourists dismayed and sparking a debate on social media.

On September 10, Lanzhanfei, a Chinese travel influencer with nearly 4 million followers on Douyin, posted a video that sparked a discussion. He alleged that the management of Shengshi Tangcheng had forced domestic Chinese visitors to give up their seats to accommodate 11 foreign tourists during a featured evening performance.

Lanzhanfei recounted his experience at the site, where he had paid 126 yuan (Rs 1,460) for a ticket to witness a display of ancient Chinese-style performances, including mesmerizing horse riding shows.

To his frustration, he discovered that a section of the seating area had been reserved exclusively for foreign guests, leaving local tourists with no choice but to stand or find alternative spots.

Adding to his, the site’s management decided to postpone the show by seven minutes to accommodate the late arrival of the foreign tourists. Lanzhanfei expressed his discontent in the video, saying, “It is fine to greet your guests. You can shut the site and postpone the show however you like, but don’t humiliate me and my ticket money.”

The video quickly went viral, amassing over 4 million views on Douyin and sparking widespread outrage online. Responding swiftly to the mounting public pressure, the site management issued a public apology on its official WeChat account within nine hours of the influencer’s video going live.

They also offered all attendees of the disrupted show a free access pass, valid for a year, as compensation for the inconvenience caused by the postponement.

However, the apology did little to quell the fury of many mainland internet users who felt that the gesture was insufficient. One Douyin user remarked, “It’s a total humiliation. And the site wants to humiliate us again for another year with a free pass.”

While some defended the management of Shengshi Tangcheng, claiming that Lanzhanfei had exaggerated the situation to gain followers, one local Douyin user, Duojisheying, uploaded a video purportedly containing Lanzhanfei’s conversation with a staff member on the night of the performance.

In the video, the staff member can be heard offering to relocate the influencer to a different seating area with a better view and refund his ticket, an offer that Lanzhanfei declined.

Duojisheying, who asserted they had attended the performance multiple times, cast doubt on Lanzhanfei’s claim that the show had been postponed solely due to tardy foreign guests, stating that the show had been delayed “half of the time” to ensure the safety of spectators in the crowded area.

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