Customised travel the next big thing for Chinese travellers

With the rise of custom itineraries, lesser known destinations in Thailand such as Khao Yai (pictured) are becoming more requested

Tailor-made tours are rapidly growing in popularity among China’s increasingly sophisticated travellers, but South-east Asian destinations can still do more to tap and serve them, shared Chinese buyers at the recent Thailand Travel Mart Plus (TTM+).

Vicky Ni, general manager, Shanghai Huantai International Travel Service, foresees customised travel will “become explosive” within the next two years. She said: “Everyone perceives China to be a mass market but in reality the bespoke segment is growing fast.”

With the rise of custom itineraries, lesser known destinations in Thailand such as Khao Yai (pictured) are becoming more requested

Recognising the growth potential of this segment, Shanghai Huantai has launched a customised travel department last year to craft trips specific to high-end customers’ desires.

While group tours remain a staple market for Sea Lion Holiday, the Guangzhou-based company is already seeing signs of emergence of the bespoke tourism market in China, product manager Yuan Huiju shared.

“Customised tours will clearly be the trend in future, especially for the repeat market, as Chinese travellers will no longer stick to group tours for their return visits to a destination,” Yuan remarked. Plans are afoot too for the company to expand into this segment, she told TTG Asia.

The Chinese tailor-made tour market is especially a fast-growing one for Thailand, observed Fang Yaqin, Beijing-based product manager for Alibaba Group Holding in Thailand, owing to Chinese travellers’ familiarity with the destination.

Chinese repeat travellers to Thailand are more inclined to seek itineraries and programmes customised to their own interests and preferences, she added.

Already, destinations farther afield from Bangkok, like Kanchanaburi and Khao Yai, as well as Koh Lipe and Koh Lanta in the south are developing as new favourites.

The changing trends of the Chinese market clearly bode well for Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) efforts to target the niche markets in order to grow Thailand as a quality tourism destination, deputy governor for marketing communications Tanes Petsuwan declared at TTM+.

For instance, weddings and honeymoons have been identified by TAT as a niche segment, with the NTO promoting Thailand as a pre-wedding photography destination for young Chinese couples.

However, Thailand still needs to be more innovative and adopt a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to meet the needs of next-gen Chinese travellers, opined Alibaba’s Fang.

“Phuket has a lot of yachts that will appeal to high-end travellers from China but they are not promoting themselves to the Chinese market,” said Fang, urging TAT to go beyond promoting high-end hotels and golf courses to better target Chinese FITs.

“The preferences of Chinese travellers are changing very fast,” she reminded.

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