Not many years ago, China Daily reports, hoteliers had an unflattering slogan for Chinese tourists: “they sleep cheap, shop expensive.”
While they still spend more on luxury goods abroad than hotels, Chinese tourists are indubitably moving on up in the world. The China Tourism Academy has found that in 2012, almost half of Chinese tourists stayed in two or three-star international hotel chains, up 10 percentage points over 2011. Some 15 percent were willing to pay for four-star-rated hotels or above, 7 percentage points higher than the year previous.
“The quality of accommodations is tipped as the next big thing,” an anonymous insider has said. This in large part has to do with the caliber of travelers departing from China today. Sponsored business tour groups are pretty much a thing of the past. In 2012, 92 percent of the 83 million outbound trips were for private reasons.
Furthermore, the number of China’s high-net worth individuals is expected to climb to 700,000 in 2012, up from 500,000 in 2011. The study, released last month by China Merchants Bank and Bain & Company, defined a high-net individual as one with at least $1 million in liquid cash.
As for the ultra-wealthy, with a projected 26,000 billionaires in Asia by 2016, 60 percent of whom identify travel as their top recreation. Chinese tourists are interested in putting down their shopping bags and going where few vacationers have gone before: the South Pole, South America, South and East Africa, Oceania and even outer space. “The affluent are glad to pay for joyful, unforgettable, in-depth and rare experiences,” said Liu Deqian, a senior tourism industry expert.
Exotic destinations are helping to add true meaning to Chinese travelers’ vacation experiences, and the magic of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities makes vacationers hungry for more unique experiences.
Recently, a sixteen-day group tour of the South Pole offered by the Abercombie & Kent China Office sold out in a snap. “Reservations for South Pole group tour scheduled at the end of 2013 was full at the beginning of this year,” said Wu Zhiyuan, “Most of them are couples, wealthy and well-educated, 40 to 50 years old, younger than their counterparts from Europe and the US.”
According to the China Tourism Academy report, the number of Chinese outbound travelers will increase 15 percent to 94.3 million this year. Their total spending is projected to hit $117.6 billion, a 20 percent surge over 2012.
Interestingly, only 3 percent of Chinese currently hold passports.
photo credit: robert prather