China’s wealthy looking for unique travel experiences

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The glass-roofed igloos in Rovaniemi, on the Arctic Circle in northern Finland, draw visitors keen on watching the Northern Lights. Photo provided to China Daily/Asia News Network

So, small and medium-sized cruise ships, high-end hotels and exclusive Chinese language tour services and drivers are what Chinese luxury travellers are looking for, says an October report by HHtravel, a luxury brand under China’s biggest online travel agency Ctrip, and Palm You, a tourism consultant based in Shanghai.

More than 90 percent of the wealthy expressed willingness to travel to polar regions and the United States, the report says.

Northern Europe, Canada, Australia, Southeast Asia, Africa, Russia, Japan’s Hokkaido and Maldives are also on their lists.

Meanwhile, Chinese travellers have overtaken Australia to become the second biggest group to visit the Antarctic, and their numbers have grown nearly 40 times over the past decade. The figure is expected to cross 5,000 this year.

High-end travellers accounted for 10 percent of all travellers there, the report says.

“Most luxury travellers deem the Antarctic as a once-in-a-life-time destination and prepare carefully,” says Guo Ming, the chief operating officer of HHtravel.

“Some of them have planned trips to the Arctic after visiting the Antarctic.”

The increasingly convenient visa policies of South American countries-Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil-this year have also sparked the interest of the Chinese nouveau riche.

Their trips to those countries typically involve spending between 100,000 ($15,050) and 250,000 yuan per head, 10 times the figure spent by ordinary travellers, the report says.

Historic sites and magnificent natural landscapes have a special appeal for those who are relatively tired of visiting the US and Europe, according to the report.

In addition, many Chinese travel to the Southern Hemisphere over October-February to enjoy the summer.

Private business owners, senior company officials, investors and their families are a major force in the luxury travel market, and most of them are from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

They are mostly aged between 35 and 50, and prefer to take their spouses or their whole family along. They value individual, private and flexible arrangements, and favour first-class direct flights run by top airlines.

Chinese travellers to the Antarctic typically opt for luxury cruises that can accommodate 200 people, so they get a full measure of the polar charm, such as hiking up a glacier and seeing polar animals at close quarters.

Other experiences that attract the wealthy include jungle fun featuring animal migration in the Masai Mara in Kenya and piranhas in the Amazon, skiing in the Alps (Switzerland’s Zermatt) as well as St. Moritz, hiking in the rainforests and watching whales in New Zealand and Australia.

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