Ctrip.com has gone where no Chinese luxury travel agency has gone before: around the world in 66-days. With more than a dozen countries on the itinerary, plenty of business-class flights, five-star hotels, and even a cruise from Ushuaia to Antarctica with the cruise line Silversea, Ctrip has created the most exclusive getaway package yet. All of the 11 reservations were sold for RMB 660,000 (US$104,654) just 13 seconds after the reservation hotline opened.
“The goal of the package is to provide an ultimate travel experience,” said Jack You, general manager of Ctrip’s high-end package tour department. “And the ‘ultimate-ness’ does not just mean luxury, it also refers to scarcity because it’s very rare to find such a travel product in China.”
The trip was sold out last June, and after a six-month visa application process, the lucky eleven embarked from Shanghai on January 29. The first destination is Australia, followed by 24 days in South America, forays through North Africa and Europe, and a ten-day cruise on the Mediterranean before returning to China on April 3. Highlights will include reservations at the finest restaurants in Paris and a view of Finland’s aurora borealis through the glass-ceilinged Kakslauttanen hotel.
The vacation represents an amalgam of Ctrip’s best-selling destinations and attractions. This is the company’s second around-the-world tour: a 50-day tour in 2010 cost RMB 600,000 (US$95,140).
“Chinese tourists have long been interested in traveling abroad, but now they want more enriched and varied experiences in different countries and continents instead of just settling on one or two places,” Yu Lan, director of overseas travel for Ctrip, said.
“Chinese tourists are less concerned about money these days, especially since the appreciation of the yuan,” Yao Shuoye, a spokesperson for Shanghai Municipal Tourism Administration. “As China continues to open up to the world, it’s getting easier for travelers to get visas, giving them more opportunities than previously to trot across the globe.”
In 2011, more than 1.1 million local residents arranged travels abroad through Shanghai travel agencies, up by 14 percent from 2010, according to data from Shanghai Municipal Tourism Administration.
The Global Times has reported that 20 people are already crossing their fingers for a spot on next year’s tour. Ctrip hopes to double the group’s size for next year’s adventure. Applications for 2013 will open in March.