A new Citi report indicates that, even though travelers in China are shifting from group travel to personalized travel, the number of new and potential travelers in the nation of more than 1.3 billion people is so large that there will be an abundant supply of first-time travelers willing to travel in groups internationally for some time to come. The Citi report, which covers both domestic and international travel—short-haul as well as long-haul—is filled with useful data for the U.S. travel trade interested in the Chinese market. Following are some of its highlights, as well as observations on the report:
—Mass tour groups are becoming less popular for domestic tourists, as demand continues to grow for more personalized trips.
—As disposable incomes grow and consumers get more destinations under their belts, Chinese travelers are tending to move towards customized experiences.
—More than nine out of 10 domestic tourists last year opted to travel independently, rather than taking a tour, a proportion that has been slowly moving upwards.
—“Chinese travel has entered a stage of leisure travel, from sightseeing travel,” said Lydia Ling, Citi’s vice president, equity research, consumer sector, who prepared the report, adding “Standardized group tours cannot satisfy rising demand for depth, personalization and local experiences by increasingly experienced Chinese travelers.”
—Chinese people in their 20s, and those over 50, have been the key drivers behind China’s booming tourism sector, Citi found, with a 17 per cent compound annual growth rate for outbound.
—Outbound tourism by elderly Chinese grew by a whopping 217 per cent last year, faster than domestic tourism’s 95 per cent.
—Mainlanders now make an average of three trips a year, and by 2020 that number is forecast to grow to six.
—Travelers were motivated by added freedom in how their time is managed and a desire for more in-depth experiences, and this trend should increase, thanks to a wider range of customized products and as more become seasoned travelers.
—But the individualized travel trend doesn’t mean tourists want to make things difficult for themselves. Instead, there’s a rising preference for one-stop-shop platforms such as Ctrip that can help travelers book flights, choose hotels, and arrange local transport.
—The trend of people travelling independently overseas has been growing—but so has the number of people traveling in a group, Hunter Williams, a partner at the international management consultant firm Oliver Wyman, told the South China Morning Post. (Headquartered in New York, the firm also has offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.)
—“Both groups are growing, and there’s still a nearly bottomless reservoir of first-time travelers in China,” Williams said, noting that those who hadn’t traveled before were more likely to opt for group travel.
—Group travel internationally will continue to be a significant segment for a while yet, and Williams didn’t expect domestic group travel to disappear entirely.
—A dissatisfaction with over-commercialized tours that promoted regular shopping stops, and the growing ease of doing your own travel research were two other reasons Chinese tourists might be opting to go it alone, he said.
—“The split between the group and independent travelers [overseas] is likely to remain fairly balanced as travelers gain experience and greater independence, at the same time as numerous newcomers begin traveling, often in groups,” said Williams.