13 Jun 2024 Spa Business Handbook
 

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Spa Business Handbook - Outbound rebound

China research

Outbound rebound


As Chinese travellers return to the global stage, new research from FINN Partners and CSG offers insights into their changing behaviours and needs. Jenny Lo shares the highlights

Wellness is especially a priority for those aged 26-35 shutterstock/aslysun
The pandemic has not dented the hunger to travel, spend and enjoy life shutterstock/U_Photo
60% of travellers say natural scenery is their first priority shutterstock/Glowonconcept

Affluent Chinese travellers are eager and ready to see the world again. But as they prepare to explore the world, what are the changes in their preferences, concerns and purchase influences? How can we address these changes? What are the new opportunities?

Before the pandemic, China was the world’s largest source of outbound tourists and by all indications, will continue to be a powerhouse in global tourism. As China reopens its borders, the world is ramping up to welcome back Chinese tourists.

But after almost three years living with restrictions that affected even day-to-day life, how has the Chinese tourist changed? How will these changes impact the products and offerings of travel stakeholders around the world this year and beyond?

It is for this reason that FINN Partners and Consumer Search Group Research collaborated on a deep-dive study designed to glean insights into the changes in behaviours, needs, preferences, decision-making and expectations of affluent Chinese travellers. This survey, with a very robust sample size of more than 2,000 affluent respondents, was conducted hot on the heels of the Chinese government easing travel restrictions in January 2023 to better reflect sentiment and consumer insights.

Ready to splurge
The pandemic has not dented the eagerness of affluent Chinese to travel, spend and enjoy life. Positive sentiment towards travel is not merely a function of pent-up demand, but backed by economic optimism. With borders open, they intend to boost their pre-pandemic pace of overseas travel though safety remains a top concern three years into the pandemic and will continue to influence destination choices.

The world’s highest-spending travel segment is ready to splurge on luxury, style and elevated comfort. Affluent Chinese travellers plan to increase spending by 15 per cent, with one in two choosing to stay in upscale or luxury hotels. They are also travelling more frequently (at an average of 5.9 trips) and indulging in longer vacations (an average of 8.7 days per trip).

Chinese travellers are seeking slow, recuperative travel and want to spend time basking in nature. They plan to travel like locals — immersing themselves in the local culture, going on more road trips, and attending more events during future trips. An impressive 56 per cent are keen to incorporate wellness in their holidays.

The importance of nature and wellness
Camping and outdoor activities have grown in popularity during the pandemic, reflecting a trend towards nature tourism. This trend is expected to stay and extend to outbound travel, with more than 60 per cent of travellers considering natural scenery as their first priority, especially among those aged 36 or above (69 per cent).

The majority of affluent Chinese travellers in the 26-35 age group are looking for more rejuvenation/wellness experiences in their next trip (65 per cent versus 56 per cent on average), while Gen Z are keen enthusiasts of entertainment/sport events (58 per cent versus 51 per cent), as well as outdoor sports and adventures (54 per cent) such as camping, hiking, cycling and skiing.

changing Role of hotels
Hotel brands are becoming a deciding factor in destination choices, especially among younger travellers, who plan their vacations around locations where their favourite hotel brand has a property. But the basics are not sufficient; they seek tasteful design and extensive room amenities. The expectation of the role of hotels has also expanded. Affluent Chinese travellers hope to socialise and meet new people in the hotels they stay in.

Most respondents are eager to go on the road, or up in the air, with 88 per cent of respondents saying they miss international leisure travel. This sentiment is dominant in the 26-35 age group. The strong sentiment to travel is not merely pent-up demand, or so-called “revenge travel”. With 70 per cent of respondents very confident about the economy of China and 87 per cent saying they are satisfied with life in general, there is reason to believe that the increase in travel frequency, duration and related spending can be sustained.

88% Long for international travel

8.7 days Average length of leisure trips

82% Prefer experiences over material things

55% Prefer flying less but staying in a place for longer

72%Prefer slow recuperation travel over itinerary filled with activities

Survey methodology

2,026 affluent Chinese travellers were surveyed via a 20-minute online questionnaire between 10-24 January 2023. Respondents were shortlisted through a pre-qualification screening to ensure data quality. Among the 2,026 travellers, 1,524 came from Tier-1, Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities across mainland China, while 502 affluent travellers in Hong Kong were also surveyed as independent samples for contrast and comparison purposes.

FINNPartners
About the author

Jenny Lo leads the China office of the New York-based global communications agency FINN Partners.

About Finn Partners:

Finn Partners’ Global Travel Practice works with hotels, tour operators, destinations and other travel products on a breadth of communications services.

About Consumer Search Group (CSG):

CSG is a leading market research firm established in 1982 offering comprehensive research services. The company has expanded to provide global marketing research services through connection with Gallup International and World Independent Network of Market Research networks.


Originally published in Spa Business Handbook 2023 edition

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