As China’s outbound travel market enters a new phase of development, increasingly savvy Chinese travellers are eschewing cookie-cutter package tours for customised, personalised experiences during their holidays.
“Many (Chinese) have already been to the major ‘pit stops’ like New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and California. Now, tour operators tell us they want to see the ‘real’ America, and our region is considered a new product,” said Lee Anthony McCarrick, executive director of Great Lakes USA.
“We have the big-city experience with Minnesota and Chicago, but the majority of our region is small towns and the great outdoors,” he said. “The Chinese have been the number one overseas traveller market in the Great Lakes region.”
Joy Cao, general manager of marketing division, Guangzhou Dista International Travel Service, has also begun marketing tours anchored on American culture and nature, such as discovering Chicago’s jazz and blues scene, exploring the Yosemite National Park and Napa Wine Valley, as well as visiting the small towns surrounding Yellowstone National Park.
In Europe, Tuscany-based DaVinci Travels recently established a partnership with Chinese tour company Feiyang Italy to bring authentic Italian experiences to the Chinese market.
“We have mainly worked with Americans and Europeans, but now we would like to focus on the Chinese market,” said Beatrice di Tomizio, senior tour organiser and account manager for incoming department of Italia-Experience, the new company formed under the partnership.
She added: “We have cooking classes and wine tasting sessions, and for smaller groups, we can arrange stays in real Italian houses to give them an original and special taste of Italy.”
Elsewhere in Egypt, Chinese travellers are also forgoing direct train and ferry connections in favour of traversing the country on four-wheeled self-drives, noted Castle Tours’ tourism manager Ahmed Abdul Mounem.
This new breed of Chinese traveller seeking transformative experiences hence represents a lucrative opportunity for the industry, driving the development of “experiential products” among tour operators, remarked Wang Xinjun, CEO, Ivy Alliance.
“Experiential travel will be the driver for future growth,” Wang stated. “There is greater demand for themed and customised tour products and more spending on quality hotel, catering and entertainments while extravagant shopping is on the decline.”
Meanwhile, Fosun Tourism Group continues to upgrade its portfolio of overseas and domestic tour products from general sightseeing to more insightful experiences, according to chairman and CEO, Qian Jiannong.
Europe ranks high as a destination where demand for in-depth tours is high, followed by the US, Africa, Morocco and Mauritius, revealed Qian.
CITS Group Shanghai, secretary director and GM, Lu Jun foresees Central and South America will emerge as new destinations in the coming years for sophisticated Chinese travellers seeking in-depth travel.
According to Ctrip’s CEO Jane Sun, FIT and custom tours now accounts for 33 per cent of the Chinese OTA’s business. “In 1H2018, tour customisation requests were up 112 per cent and bookings for Chinese-speaking local guide increased 242 per cent,” said Sun.
Additional reporting by Prudence Lui