Air China magazine warns London visitors to avoid ethnic minority areas

Haze Fan | Special to CNBC
Air China safety tips spark fury
Air China safety tips spark fury

Even for China, where companies have struggled with race issues in their marketing previously, the latest inflight magazine from the country's flagship airline will likely come as a shocker.

Air China's Wings of China carries a long feature on visiting London, with almost a third of the magazine dedicated to tourist attractions in Britain's capital and other famous towns such as Oxford. The main article, titled "London the city of 'hat tricks'," covers Brits' apparent fondness for all kinds of hats.

Then, after a section on transport options and lifestyle and cultural activities in London, Wings of China offers some "Tips from Air China."

"London is generally a safe place to travel, however precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians,Pakistanis and black people," China's flagship carrier advises. "We advise tourists not to go out alone at night, and females always to be accompanied by another person when traveling."

"Tips from Air China" on safety when visiting London
Haze Fan | CNBC

The advice is at odds with the London promoted by its Mayor Sadiq Khan, a Brit with Pakistani parents, who in July launched a #LondonisOpen campaign and frequently blogs about his favorite places to eat and drink in his South London Indian-Pakistani neighborhood of Tooting.

Meanwhile, Britain is an increasingly popular destination for Chinese tourists. According to government agency VisitBritain, more than 270,000 Chinese visited Britain in 2015, up 46 percent on the previous year. This was after the number of Chinese tourists doubled in the five years to 2014. Chinese visitors spent 586 million pounds ($786 million) in total in Britain in 2015, up 18 percent on 2014.

And in January, Britain launched a new, two-year, multiple-entry visa in a bid to woo even more Chinese visitors to its shores, following changes made in 2015 that allowed tourists and business travelers to apply for both British and European visas in a single process.

Chinese companies have been criticized previously for their depictions of various races. In May, a Chinese laundry detergent-maker apologized for an advertisement that showed an Asian woman shoving a dirt-smeared black man into a washing machine, only for him to emerge as a clean Asian man.

Some Western media called the ad, which ran on Chinese social media platforms, "the most racist commercial ever."

Air China did not respond to CNBC's request for comment on its London safety tips.

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