Chinese High-End Outbound Customized Travel – A Joint Report By Ctrip and COTRI
High-End Customized Travel vs. Standard Customized Travel
Ctrip’s Customized Travel unit is the leading platform for customized travel, boasting the largest annual transaction volume and linking to the most qualified customized travel consultants in China. In 2019, while many international tourism service providers are still learning about the concept of customized travel and adjusting their services to satisfy the diverse demands of Chinese travelers, Ctrip Customized Travel have launched their “high-end customized travel” services.
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”. However, they don’t allow customers to shape the kind of travel on offer, nor do they explore supply side offerings in depth. As a result, players in the Chinese travel industry have fallen into the trap of collectively jumping on the bandwagon of offering customized travel, in the hope of standing out in a homogenized market. Ctrip therefore launched its “high-end” customized travel platform 3.0.
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.
Market Size of Chinese High-End Customized Travel
The amount of orders on Ctrip’s customized travel platform increased 180% in 2018 when compared to the year before, with the growth rate of orders from second and third-tier cities surpassing first-tier cities. Meanwhile, demands for customized travel from customers in first-tier cities have developed to be of greater depth. 2019 can be seen to be as the first year when the concept of high-end customized travel went mainstream. Ctrip’s data shows that the average expenditure per person on a high-end customized travel package is RMB 23,800 (c.a. USD 3,410), while the average per person expenditure for standard packages is only RMB 5,500 (c.a. USD 790) . The top ten Chinese local markets with highest growth of demand for high-end customized travels are Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Hong Kong, Nanjing, Xi’an and Tianjin. Among them, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou exhibited a three-digit growth rate.
High-end customized travel clients
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.
These individuals are experienced travelers with generous travel budgets; giving trust to professional services and recognizing the value of services. They are flexible in arranging their vacation time and prefer niche destinations. They care about exclusivity and privacy during travel, and are rational consumers. Ctrip’s customized travel platform is striving to scale up the standard customized travel market among its individual customers and business clients as well as developing the high-end market.
Through its platform, Ctrip’s Customized Travel provides “professional itineraries to a first-class standard”, “individual private travel steward services” and “extraordinary courtesy” to improve the travel experience. Ctrip focuses on providing travel services of high quality and exquisite taste, with the aim of fully upgrading the travel experience of its high-end customized travel clients.
The Demands of High-End Customized Travel Clients
Australia – Riding a speedboat across the Horizontal Waterfalls
Antarctica – Sailing and penguin-watching
Kenya – Hunting safaris in private reserves
Iceland – -National Geographic Family Expedition
Fiji – Drinking at a floating bar and going skydiving
Japan – Helicopter tours over volcanoes
United States – In-depth visits to Silicon Valley’s start-ups
Southern Europe – Exploring southern European towns off the beaten track
Globally – Around the world in 24 days in a private jet
Kenya – Having breakfast with giraffes
Kenya –Dinner under stars at a camp on the Savannah
Dubai –Dinner “under the sea” at Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai
Kenya – All-you-can-eat meat buffet at renowned African restaurant Carnivore
France – Experience France’s Michelin-star restaurants
Europe –Tour the world’s top wine collections with a wine connoisseur
Finland – Seeing the Northern Lights while staying in an ice hotel g suite
Japan – Tasting Kaiseki at the Top 50 restaurants in Asia
Arctic and Indian Ocean – Fishing for Arctic King Crabs and lobsters in the Indian Ocean
Australia – Lunching on an Australian ranch and enjoying dinner served by a private chef
The tastes of high-end customized travel clients around activities and dining experiences are changing. They are increasingly switching from sampling the local cuisine and street food to learning the methods of how locals cook traditional dishes and the stories behind food. Ctrip’s customized travel platform shows that Thailand, Japan, and Italy rank are the top three overseas destinations for Chinese foodies. Ctrip customized consultants once designed a high-end customized trip that included learning sushi-making at specialized schools and visiting the Osaka Takoyaki Museum, experiencing Japanese tea ceremonies, and making Japanese breakfast.
Africa – Giraffe Manor, Luxury Camping in a National Park, hunting lodge in private reserve
Japan – Ancient hot spring hotel
Western Australia – Maitraya luxury private mansions
Dubai – Al Maha, the top luxury desert resort seen in reality shows
Abu Dhabi – Zaya Nurai Island Resort with private island
Running a Marathon
Watching the NBA finals
Watching FIFA World Cup with special pass
Watching F1 in Sochi, Russia
Watching Champions League final
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 All Time Greatest High-end Customized Travel Bookings
Shanghai. A 10-day leisure trip for nine business travelers’ to Kanto (Japan) with all hotel bookings at Hoshinoya Luxury Hotels and Mandarin Oriental Hotels. Total spending: RMB620,000 (c.a. USD 88,830).
Beijing. A 9-day holiday for a family of 13 during the Chinese New Year period to the COMO Maalifushi resort in the Maldives. Total spending RMB 820,000 (c.a. USD 117,500).
Guangzhou. A 24-day in-depth tour in Africa for 6 people. They traveled to more than 20 places, from Masai Mara, the Waterfall City to Awasa and Kilimanjaro, staying in forest lodges and watching wildlife up close. Total spending RMB 430,000 (c.a. USD 61,600).
Chengdu. A 21-day trip for 18 people to Canada, travelling from the West Coast to the East Coast. They took a boat to Victoria Island and visited the Bethune Memorial National Historic Site, the CN Tower, Casa Roman Castle, the Ontario Parliament Building, and the University of Toronto. Total spending RMB 640,00 (c.a. USD 91,690).
Shenzhen. A 12-day trip for 11 travelers to the east and west coast of the United States. They toured Universal Studios Hollywood with a private guide, experienced the filming process and visited special areas that are only accessible for VIP guests. They traveled up north along the Highway No. 15, through the San Bernardino Forest then to the largest Mohave Desert in North America. They concluded their journey with a helicopter ride to the West Canyon. Total spending RMB 910,000 (c.a. USD 130,372)
Hangzhou. 12-day trip to Thailand for 7 people. Their itineraries included Phuket Marriott Nai Yang Beach Resort and Spa, elephant-riding into the jungle, rafting, learning Thai cooking, and seeing orchards, monkey caves and flying-foxes in the jungle. In Bangkok, they went to the unique Damnoen Saduak Floating Market and the Maeklong Railway Market to experience the local lifestyle. Total spending RMB 370,000 (c.a. USD 53,000).
Wuhan. A graduation trip for 10 people to Hawaii. They visited the Kualoa Ranch and the ancient Hawaiian fish pond, explored the mysterious coast and enjoyed the private beach at Kualoa. They also took part in activities such as kayaking, canoeing and paddle surfing. Total spending RMB 630,000 (c.a. USD 90,260).
Xi’an. 15-day trip for 10 people to the South Island of New Zealand. They took a ride on the famous “Alpine Scenic Train” for sightseeing, traveled across the plains and valleys, rode helicopters at the Fox Glacier and did skydiving in Wanaka. Total spending RMB 530,000 (c.a. USD 75, 930).
Chongqing. A 10-day trip to Copenhagen for a group of 9 (4 adults and 5 children). They visited downtown fish market and tried local seafood such as salmon, squid, shrimp, lobster, crabs, scallops, mussels, oysters, caviar, sea urchins and whale meat – all caught in the North Sea. They spent time at Legoland, visited private farms, and learnt about cultivation and crops on an organic farm on the northern side of the Danish island Zealand. They tasted fresh and ripe fruits and vegetables picked up from local farms and learnt about the local lifestyle and local people’s value. Total spending RMB 420,000 (c.a. USD 60,170).
Business Opportunities for International Suppliers
There is no doubt that Chinese high-end customized travel clients will bring a higher per person return on investment to spending on tourism resources, which is just as crucial for well-established destinations that want to further develop its Chinese market as it is for niche destinations which are just beginning to attract Chinese tourists. 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. The newly launched Ctrip Customized Travel Platform 3.0 should serve as a one-stop solution for both direct customers that are seeking unique resources and service providers who are searching for comprehensive solutions.
*This article was originally published by the much-respected 携程定制旅行