China’s outbound travel market is evolving, from group travel to FIT (free independent traveller), from sightseeing and shopping as main activities to sports events and culture – the latter among the fastest growing segment in the country.

Local experiences and scenery are what travellers want most when going on a culture trip – to experience the destination’s culture and understand its history and customs. This could either be through cultural institutions such as museums or immersion in the local culture or attending events.

Just like for sports trips, events are important for culture travel too, according to the recently-released ITB China Travel Trends Report commissioned by ITB China, currently taking place in Shanghai (May 15-17), and conducted by international consulting and research company, Kairos Future.

The Chinese travel agents surveyed for the study named three types of seasonal events favoured by travellers. One is art and music festivals, such as the Mozart Week in Salzburg. Another is food-and-drinks-related, for example, the Munich’s Oktoberfest. Finally, local festivals connected to local or national holidays  such as the Running of the Bulls during the San Fermín festival in Pamplona, Spain.

Culture travel is also the theme for which travellers have the highest willingness to pay, according to the survey respondents.

Findings also show that the stories of a place, through mediums like films, history, books and food, are important to inspire cultural travellers to visit a destination.

Apart from museums and other traditional institutions, more immersive travel products are gaining popularity and the demand for different cultural experiences is becoming increasingly diverse.

“Many of today’s Chinese travellers visiting Europe, for example, are keen to experience wine culture through visiting wineries and to sample and learn about the local cuisine,” states the report.

The respondents also point out that as many culture travellers are typically older than those opting for other themes, they face a language barrier when travelling abroad. Chinese-speaking guides, described as “an upgraded service” for these travellers, will remain in demand.

The Chinese agents surveyed suggest that experts and ‘opinion leaders” at the destinations – preferably Chinese-speaking – can be engaged by tour operators for guiding services, as well as for product development to increase the perceived authenticity of tours.

About 62% of the respondents forecast an expected growth of 30% or more over the next three years in the culture travel sector.

*This article was originally published by the much-respected Webintravel

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