David Thomas, a consultant for Think Global Consulting, speaking at the Luxperience mentioned that the UK, the US and Australia, the so-called elite destinations from the West, must understand how to provide a better experience to the elite traveler, i.e.; if they are willing to woo the elite Chinese travelers. China’s elite travelers include a force of one million millionaires who on an average makes three foreign trips a year.
Mr. Thomas also mentioned that they simply don’t understand how to service these elite travelers, emphasizing the point that these premium Chinese travelers deserve better human interactions when they are traveling to western destinations.
A Chinese travel industry CEO mentioned that better handling does not simply revolve around understanding the language. The average Chinese traveler wants to be serviced by people who not only understands the language but also their culture, said Lin Xu, China Luxury Travel Network’s founder, while addressing the 240-strong audience comprising luxury travel buyers and sellers attending the conference.
Ms. Xu added that there are in fact more than 2.7 million millionaires (in US dollar parlance) in China and many of these millionaires prefer to stay undetected. This group is by far the heaviest of travelers which creates a burgeoning luxury travel market for western travel agencies.
Chinese middle class, the new millionaires, are brand conscious aspirational travelers and they alone account for nearly 25% of the world’s brand consumption, accounting for nearly 9 million foreign trips per year and a total spending of US$102 billion in 2012. Their online spending alone was around $57 billion.
There is a stark difference in the travel booking pattern in the west and in China. The major work in travel booking in the west is increasingly done by travel agents. Conversely, online resources such as Weibo and Wechat social media is increasingly doing the same in China, generating a huge amount of business.
The Luxperience Thought Leaders panel comprising six members unanimously agreed that the west needs to better understand the thought process that goes behind travel booking by the Chinese travelers, the role of women in such decision making process as well as the influence of the extended family. The elite executive class, the Chinese nouveau riche, may earn the money but it is their wives and girl friends who get to spend it. Additionally, a lot of research goes into the decision making process and most of it is done online with the help of a mobile device.
Clement Wong, founder of BeMyGuest.travel, shared an interesting insight when he mentioned that the average Chinese or Asian traveler spend an awful amount of time in traffic jams. All the more reason why travel companies must look to make their websites not only look good on a mobile device but also function properly, else they are surely going to lose business.
Wong also cited an innovative approach for servicing elite luxury travelers in Jakarta, using police escorts to beat the traffic, which he added has now become very popular.
Thomas mentioned that China is modernizing but not westernizing. He also mentioned that affluent Chinese travelers realized that the west has better infrastructure, however they are puzzled by difficulties in getting the insignificantly small things, such as a caddy when visiting golf courses in Australia. This, he added, are one of the problems that are faced when a hierarchical society travels to an egalitarian one.
The panelists agreed that the major challenges to hosting and servicing elite luxury travelers from China is understanding them and making sure that services are personalized.
Ms. Xu mentioned that well-to-do Chinese travelers will no longer be willing to travel in groups. The key way to success would definitely be answering to the demands of the new trends and needs of the elite Chinese travelers.
Author and Antarctic explorer, David McGonigal, mentioned while addressing the audience that there is a certain degree of convergence in consumption patterns between travelers from west and China. He observed, “Luxury is not about limos, but creating memories that are held in our hearts. Luxury is about feeling part of the place, not just being a casual observer.”