2018 Report of Chinese High-End Outbound Customized Travel
Ctrip, the largest online travel agent in Asia, and the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute, or COTRI, jointly released a new travel report at the 2019 ITB China trade fair in Shanghai ((May 15 - 17). The report examines the trends of Chinese outbound travellers who are opting for more high-end customized travel.
Even though the concept of “customized travel” is a relatively new one, having emerged in China only in recent years, there are doubts surrounding the rise of customized travel. With the goal of attracting the attention of customers and the media, many Chinese travel agents simply claim that the ordinary packages they offer to small travel groups or business travel groups are an example of “customized travel”.
High-end customized travel reflects Chinese high-end customers’ pursuit of top-notch quality services and the exclusive use of highly scarce resources. The biggest difference distinguishing high-end customized travel from standard travel is that high-end customized travel only targets seasoned travelers who can afford and appreciate such services, pricing their products extremely high, using very scarce resources and providing a top-grade experience.
In order to meet the highly personalized travel demands of Chinese travelers, Ctrip's Customized Travel unit was established in January 2016. Currently, there are more than 1,500 suppliers available on the platform with more than 6,000 customized travel consultants facilitating this unique service.
As the concept of high-end customized travel has gone mainstream in China, in March 2019, Ctrip's Customized Travel launched a platform designed especially for high-net-income individuals. The platform serves Chinese high-end customers who are increasingly interested in top-quality services and the exclusive use of highly scarce resources. As seasoned travelers who regard travel as a major leisure activity, they are actively in search of services, resources and experiences that are high-quality, unique and niche. Flexible with their time and not bound by cost issues, these customers highly value exclusivity and privacy during their travel experiences.
According to the report, women, couples and those in the 31-40 age group were the most likely demographics to book high-end customized travel packages overseas. The top 10 most popular destinations were Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, Maldives, USA, Australia, France, Singapore, UAE and Italy.
In 2018, the number of orders on the platform increased 180% compared to the year before. Although Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou are the top three local markets with the highest demand for high-end customized travel, the growth rate of orders from second and third-tier cities such as Xi'an and Tianjin surpassed that of first-tier cities. Ctrip's data show that the average expenditure per person on a high-end customized travel package was RMB 23,800 (USD 3,410), while the average per person expenditure for standard packages is only RMB 5,500 (c.a. USD 790)
The demand for unique activities such as helicopter tours, fine dining, attendance of special sporting events such as FIFA World Cup and unique accommodation arrangements such as island resorts reflects ongoing interest in higher end, more tailored experiences in the Chinese travel market.
The FIFA World Cup in 2018 also set off huge waves of orders for high-end customized travel. One booking set the record of being the longest customized trip, featuring an immersive trip of 43 days around Russia. Besides covering all the classic tourist routes in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Ctrip’s services also provided the clients with tickets and VIP passes for the FIFA World Cup matches. Other activities in this booking included watching Russian ballet performances, visiting local cafes and niche stores that are perfect for pictures, with visiting the “fairytale town” Suzdal and eating reindeer meat as a particular highlights of the trip.
The main target clients for high-end customized travel are China’s high-net-worth-individuals (HNWIs). By 2018, there were 1.67 million HNWIs in China. For them, health is the most frequently mentioned desire, and traveling has become a major leisure activity and a necessity for life.
The China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI) forecasts that the YoY growth rate of the Chinese outbound travel market will be 11%, with 4 million people going overseas by 2030. Based on the market’s impressive growth, Ctrip Customized Travel forecasts that high-end customized travel will grow by 200% over the next three years.
Ctrip.com International, Ltd. is a leading travel service provider of accommodation reservation, transportation ticketing, packaged tours and corporate travel management in China. It is the largest online consolidator of accommodations and transportation tickets in China in terms of transaction volume. Ctrip enables business and leisure travelers to make informed and cost-effective bookings by aggregating comprehensive travel related information and offering its services through an advanced transaction and service platform consisting of its mobile apps, Internet websites and centralized, toll-free, 24-hour customer service center. Ctrip also helps customers book vacation packages and guided tours.