How wealthy Chinese spend their holidays: New trends shaping China’s luxury travel market

Due to the pandemic and the continuous lockdowns in China, China’s travel market, especially China’s luxury travel market has faced big challenges. In 2019, China’s domestic tourism revenue reached 5.73 trillion yuan. However, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused revenue to plummet by 61%. Although looking more optimistic, China’s domestic tourism revenue in 2021 stopped at 2.92 trillion yuan, still accounting only for half of pre-pandemic levels.

China’s domestic tourism revenue
Data source: Ministry of Culture and Tourism of The People’s Republic of China, designed by daxue consulting, China’s domestic tourism revenue 2018-2021

At present, Chinese still cannot travel abroad, thus, new modes of domestic travel for wealthy consumers are mushrooming across the country. For example, luxury domestic long-distance travel and daytrips are two new choices for Chinese rich people to spend their holidays.

Long-distance travels

As Chinese cannot travel abroad, Xinjiang province (in the northwest of China), Chuanxi (west of the Sichuan province), Xibei (in the northwest of China) are the second-best options for tourists who want to enjoy exotic charm, as these places with relatively fewer inhabitants boast suggestive landscapes like snowy mountains, massive glaciers, and uncontaminated plateaus.

China's luxury travel market: Xinjiang is one of the fave destinations by China's wealthy travelers
Source: pixabay, Xinjiang province vaunts breathtaking natural landscapes

High income people and retired seniors are the main long-distance travelers in China. Considering that these places are in the most remote areas of China, the trip will take a long time and cost a lot of money. Therefore, the people who choose these destinations are mainly mid-to-high income people or retired seniors. When it comes to means of transport and size of the group, they tend to choose self-driving tours, small group tours and high-end train tours. For instance, according to Tuniu (local leading travel agency), most Xinjiang tours take 8-10 days, and the most popular tour was up to 8,203 yuan per person during October, while a private tour are up to 11,220 yuan per person.

Source: Tuniu, the tours of Xinjiang province

Luxury Train Tours: a new option for long-distance travelers

Moreover, a new type of luxury train tours has emerged in the last few years. Such high-end tourist trains provide tourists with “all-inclusive” packages. The carriages are equipped with bunk beds, desks, closets, safes, private toilets, and showers according to the selected ticket class. In addition, such trains provide entertainment venues like dining cars, bars, KTVs, children’s playgrounds and other services.

The train will stop at each station for 6-10 hours, giving travelers plenty of time to explore the city and once all passengers are back, get on the train and leave for the next stop.

“新年东北跨年冰雪列车” (New Year’s Eve Train tour across the snowy Northeast) is a good example of this new kind of luxury experience. Its 10-days itinerary goes through the extreme north of China. The single ticket price ranges between 12,800 yuan and 18,800 yuan.

China's luxury travel market
Source: Feizhu, New Year’s Eve Train tour across the Snowy Northeast

Ctrip brand marketing director Dai Yu declared in an interview with Xinjing News: “Core consumers are mostly concentrated in East China, including Shanghai, Hangzhou, etc. However, we are witnessing a significant increase of customers from second- and third-tier cities (Kaifeng, Zhengzhou, Nantong). Additionally, 60% of the travelers are over 40 years old, mostly families.”

Furthermore, “Package deals” (“囤货游”, “先囤后约”, “随心飞”) are provided by many luxury hotels and airlines. According to the 2021 China In-store Consumption New Trend Insight Report by DataStory, middle-class people pursue comfortability and prefer 5-star hotels for accommodation. In other words, now that people travel less, they pay more attention to quality. On the other hand, since the outbreak of the pandemic, value-for-money, generous expiration dates, and unconditional refund have become important drivers for users to “stock up” products and services, giving a new shape to China’s luxury travel market.

Daytrips

Influenced by the policy of “staying at the original city during holidays”, daytrips to nearby destinations have become the choice of many people. Daytrips include staycations, glamping in the suburbs, and trips within a 2-hour high-speed train’s travel. According to Ctrip’s “2022 National Day Holiday Travel Summary Report“, daytrips orders accounted for 65% of the 7 days of the National Day.

Meanwhile, Meituan’s 2022 National holiday (7 days) consumption data showed that local tourism consumption accounted for 77.4%, mainly stimulated by the new momentum of the holiday economy. The report also indicated that high-end hotels and special B&Bs have become new holiday destinations. During the National Day holiday, the average daily orders for high-end hotels on Meituan nearly doubled, with many users choosing hotel packages that included an integrated experience of eating, drinking, and playing. The special room types such as parent-child rooms, spas, home theatres and sea view rooms are in high demand, and it is difficult to find a room in Beijing Hutong district, Shanghai old mansions, and Guangzhou Canton tower. Moreover, because of the changeable policy, most consumers make plans just three days before the trip.

Parent-child activities are important, especially during long holidays. During the Golden week 2022, the search volume of “good places to walk children” rose by 850%, compared with Labor Day holidays. Farming experiences, outdoor camp activities and parent-child theme parks are the three most attractive destinations for Millennial and Gen-Z parents.

Young Chinese consumers embrace glamping

Another way for a big family or a group of friends to spend their holidays is “glamping”. Glamping stands for “glamorous + camping”, in Chinese called 豪华露营 or 野奢. People set up comfortable and spacious tents in the woods, grilling around the stove, and even watching movies. The camping equipment they use is state-of-art, sophisticated, and expensive.

Glamping is spreading through new Chinese social media such as Douyin, Bilibili and RED, and people are gradually becoming aware of this new trend. As people’s understanding of life and aesthetics has deepened, glamping has become more and more popular among young consumers who are hungry for novelty.

glamping, a rising trend in China's luxury travel market
Source: Red, The searching result of “glamping”, “露营”, “野奢”

As the Zero Covid policy has discouraged people from planning trips, inducing them to opt for local attractions and short trips to neighboring cities, many young people decided to join sports activities instead of traveling. The “2022 National Day Forecast Report” released by Ctrip mentions that young people this year have developed interest in new outdoor activities inside the city, especially trendy sports such as Ultimate Frisbee, cycling, tail wave surfing, kayaking, and rugby. The report also shows that the recent search popularity of Frisbee, kayaking and cycling daytrip shas increased by 50%, 74%, and 80% respectively.

ultimate frisbee in china
Source: Pixels, Ultimate frisbee is taking off in China

How the pandemic reshaped China’s luxury travel market

  • Due to the pandemic and continuous lockdowns in China, China’s travel market, especially China’s luxury travel market has faced big challenges.
  • At present, Chinese still cannot travel abroad, thus, new domestic travel trends for rich people and families appeared. For example, luxury long-distance travels and daytrips are two new choices for Chinese rich people to spend their holidays.
  • Self-driving tours, small group tours and high-end train tours are the favorite kinds of long-distance domestic trips for rich people.
  • A new type of luxury train tours has emerged tin the last few years which provides travelers with “all-inclusive” tourist services.
  • Many luxurious hotels and airlines provide “Package deals” (“囤货游”, “先囤后约”, “随心飞”).
  • Daytrips include staycations, glamping in the suburbs, and trips within 2-hour high-speed rail travel.
  • Glamping (glamorous camping) is a new fashionable way for families or friends to spend their holidays.
  • New trendy sports such as Frisbee, cycling, tail wave surfing, kayaking, and rugby are the replacement of travel for more and more young Chinese consumers.

Learn more about China’s luxury industry