Chinese luxury market finally takes liking to customisation

Tailor-made itineraries are rapidly gaining traction among China’s luxury travellers in recent years, with the demography becoming better travelled, more globally-oriented, more plugged-in to the gamut of products available and motivated by more complex needs, said buyers at the recent ILTM Asia.

According to Hurun’s The Chinese Luxury Traveller 2017 report, the proportion of wealthy Chinese choosing standard packages fell from 37 per cent in 2015 to 26 per cent last year, with over half showing preference for fine-tuned packages (27 per cent) or fully-customisable packages (23 per cent).

“A lot of companies previously were about groups and having charters and fixed departures, which (continues) to happen in the luxury segment. But now the ‘real high-end’ (segment) looks for tailor-made experiences, niche destinations and properties with few Chinese guests,” said Aymeric Naudin, assistant general manager at China’s Sparkle Tour.

Wealthy travellers now have desires more sophisticated than “spending money and being flashy”, he explained. They want to learn on their travels and live like a local, and are better able to realise these goals, being “less shy to interact with locals” and with “(lesser) language barriers”.

Even Ctrip, China’s largest OTA, now provides on-request itineraries to “high-end clients” via its luxury brand HHTravel. “Clients often turn to us with requests for something unique and we connect them to an ‘experience guide’ who will design an itinerary for them,” said Luigi Deng, market manager Italy, accommodation business, Ctrip.

Li Changsong, managing director at Deluxe MICE Tour & Luxury Travel, foresees the Chinese luxury market would ultimately turn into a tailor-made one. He said: “There is a great phenomenon happening – people are now more aware of new products and more (discerning) about quality.”

Despite being a proponent of the value of personalisation, Li admitted that packages continue to make up 30-40 per cent of his business. “It takes time for the market to mature,” he told TTG Asia.

Meanwhile, Kevin Wang, business development manager at Megastars, a B2B company selling packages, has seen sustained demand for the fixed format, while acknowledging the need to continually incorporate new products to stay relevant.

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