Attract China Blog

Four Types of Independent Chinese Tourists

September 4, 2014

We have been talking about the rise of the independent Chinese tourist for a while, and while we’re all excited about how this high-spending group powers the global travel boom, few businesses understand the different types of independent Chinese tourists, and subsequently, don’t understand the necessity for targeted strategies to attract them. Now, the Attract China research team can help you take the initiative to learn about the tastes and demands of the four major types of independent Chinese tourists.

FAMILIES

disneyVacations are excellent for quality family time. In China, where the culture emphasizes family connectedness, parents often take time off during their children’s school holidays and to go on a family trip. There’s an old saying in China that it’s better to travel ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books, so, Chinese parents see travel as a means of education. Wealthy parents take their kids to travel abroad very early to broaden their horizons. As the author Walt Streightiff said, “There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.”

Day trips to theme parks have always been popular among Chinese tourists. Disneyland, Universal Studios, Six Flags, etc., all claim to provide the best family experience for travelers from all over the world. In recent years, as more and more Chinese families send their kids to study abroad, university tours have become a new trend. Chinese parents who place high expectations on their (most often) only child invest heavily in their education, and they start early. Some families will even visit places like Harvard and Stanford when their children are five or six years old. Another phenomenon as a result of Chinese students studying abroad is a growing number of parents traveling abroad to visit their kids. It’s exciting for them to reunite in a foreign country, and Chinese students often take the opportunity to travel around the country with their parents.

Chinese families want a home away from home when they travel abroad, so cost-effective, kid-friendly suites located near major attractions or universities are the first choice of many Chinese families. The availability of Chinese food is also a big plus. Although they will definitely try Western cuisine, they need to satisfy their “Chinese stomach” every now and then.

STUDENTS

20131205165126_14463As previously mentioned, Chinese students now travel abroad for further education. According to a 2014 quarterly report from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Chinese students account for 29 percent of all foreign students studying in the U.S. Most of these Chinese students are from wealthy families, and are experienced independent travelers that explore the country during school holidays. After visiting all major cities and attractions, they start seeking a deeply immersive cultural experience.

Chinese students who don’t study or live in foreign countries are eager to travel abroad during summer and winter holidays that often last for one to two months at a time. Two types of independent travel are especially popular among Chinese students – graduation trips and girlfriend getaways. A summer graduation trip is one of the best ways to commemorate all of those years of hard work and say goodbye to college life. Many Chinese students now take a gap year after college to travel to their dream destinations. Another popular trip is a girlfriend getaway, especially among female college students who are passionate about fashion and shopping. You can’t argue with the appeal of stealing away for quality time with your best girlfriends. In fact, a recent survey shows that women travel more often than men. Women also seem to enjoy researching and planning a trip more than men do.

In terms of accommodation and dining, students are more likely to save money on hotels to have more money to spend on activities and shopping. They don’t spend very much time in hotels and don’t have a high demand for luxury accommodations, but high-speed Wifi is a must. It’s so important for Chinese that it’s rated as the No.1 item that they look for in a foreign hotel. One thing that Chinese students don’t have a problem spending money on is food. They’re eager to check out famous western restaurants and enjoy the fine dining experience.

COUPLES

zh148103598238There’s a saying that every couple should travel before they settle down and get married. By stepping out of the comfort zones together and seeking out for novel experiences, a couple gets to know each other better. Today, many Chinese couples make travel plans in advance and set off on overseas trips as soon as their vacation begins.

For young Chinese couples, whether they are planning a destination wedding, honeymoon, or just a couple’s getaway, one thing’s for certain – they want their trip to be romantic. So what are romantic destinations for Chinese? Many young couples opt to visit the sunny beaches of tropical islands, such as Honolulu, Guam, and Maldives, where the ocean views act as the perfect background for wedding pictures. Others prefer western cities that are famous for their romantic culture. Paris, known as “the romance capital” and the “city for lovers,” used to attract a mass of Chinese tourists, but the worsening crime situation in recent years keeps Chinese visitors away from the city.  Seattle also holds appeal for Chinese because of the romantic comedy classic “Sleepless in Seattle.” Last year, the Chinese movie “Beijing Meets Seattle” updated the city’s romantic image for a new generation in China. Unlike with students, hotel accommodations are very important to couples. They are willing to pay for luxury hotel rooms that offer romantic views and upgraded amenities.

Overseas travel is not only appealing to young couples, but also to older couples who weren’t able to travel abroad when they were younger. Thanks to the rising amount disposable income and the relaxation of restrictions on foreign travel in recent years, they can finally see the world. Today, many newly retired couples are planning their first-ever overseas trip to reward themselves. They show less interest in romantic pop culture, and instead focus more on sightseeing. Although many older Chinese don’t speak much English, and are not as tech-savvy as the younger generation, they want to travel independently for a thrilling and challenging experience abroad. Unlike young couples who spend big on luxury hotels, older couples prefer to stay at hotels that are well-located for sightseeing, convenient to public transportation, and budget-friendly.

BACKPACKERS

zrgrfing-004873“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson. Chinese travelers begin to realize that there’s no better way to do this than taking a backpacking trip to disconnect from city life and reconnect with nature. Today’s experienced Chinese tourists ditch organized group tours, travel beyond Asian countries, and backpack independently around the world. Even in the most exotic destinations, like Antarctica and the Amazon, you’ll find Chinese tourists enjoying a once-in-a lifetime adventure.

We all know that independent Chinese tourists are tech-savvy, which has given rise to the “flashpacker” – backpackers that travel with electronic devices such as laptops, digital cameras and iPads so that they can search for travel information online and document their experiences on popular social media platforms. Writing an online travel journal is increasingly popular in China. A good online travel journal is not just an exciting story, but also includes useful travel tips, itineraries, photos, comments, recommendations, etc. So, travel journal sites are actually great resource centers that help other backpackers plan their individual trips.

Budget is not an issue for most Chinese backpackers. They prefer to stay at hostels to meet other backpackers, but they also take the time to try luxury 5-star hotels. It’s all about the experience and, compared with other types of independent Chinese travelers, backpackers tend to stay abroad for a longer period of time. Most Chinese backpackers travel for months at a time, which translates into an overall higher expenditure. They also tend to travel further, thus spreading their funds to regional areas more than other tourists. Given this, it’s wise not to dismiss them as travelers on a shoe-string budget who can’t afford to spend.

The importance of the Chinese market to the travel industry cannot be overstated. The rise of independent Chinese travellers is an unstoppable trend and a lucrative opportunity for businesses, but we must remember that Chinese outbound tourism is a large and rapidly growing marketplace where traveller patterns are constantly changing. It’s key for businesses to keep pace with the changing trends and cater to the specific needs of each type of independent Chinese traveller.