Destination China

China

A buzzing cultural and touristic hub, China wastes no time in conquering the latest travel trends and demands, to present a multifarious offering to travellers from around the world. Aleksandra Wood reports.

Fast-paced, eccentric and vivacious China has long been an industry leader in practically everything, working at maximum speed to keep ahead of any curve balls thrown at its inexhaustible offering.

Each of China’s provinces and regions are tasked with developing their own touristic portfolio – from cultural and ecological heritage, such as natural sceneries, traditional cities and villages, to buzzing, high-tech cities.

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“The Chinese Government dedicates a lot of effort to the travel industry. Its ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative continuously generates more tourists from around the world,” general manager, Sunrise Kempinski Hotel &Yanqi Island, Brice Pean illustrated. “The transportation – especially the bullet train – has been developed greatly. Literally dozens of airports have been built in recent years, while roads and highways have been greatly improved to allow for smooth travelling, even to the most remote regions.”

According to preliminary statistics released by the China National Tourism Administration, China’s tourism industry contributed $1.3 trillion to the country’s GDP, accounting for 11 per cent of economic output. Vice president, sales and marketing, Greater China, Marriott International, Lawrence Ng elucidated: “The number of inbound visits increased to more than 139 million in 2017. Foreign youth’s rising enthusiasm for touring China while learning Mandarin boosts China’s inbound tourism, with the country receiving 69.5 million inbound tourists in H1 of 2017.”

TREND UPKEEP

Much of the success of the tourism industry in China can be accredited to the country’s ability to hastily catch on to the constant emergence of new travel trends, and the evolution of the already established ones.

With the current increases in disposable income in China, domestic family travel is now one of the fastest growing segments in contemporary Chinese tourism.

“What some international readers may not realise is that the vast majority of tourists in China are domestic Chinese tourists. Travelling is becoming more and more popular in China; more and more people can afford to travel domestically, so the number of travellers has been increasing constantly, especially during traditional holidays,” Pean of Sunrise Kempinski Hotel &Yanqi Island revealed.

As such, the Hyatt Regency Wuyuanwan has tailored its offering to the family market for the upcoming school holiday season. The prestigious hotel’s family package not only features superb accommodation in Xiamen, but also provides a special tent and amenities for children, children’s toys as gifts and hot milk and snacks upon request.

Another ascending trend this year is ‘bleisure’ tourism. The rise of the younger, more advanced traveller has brought on a heightened demand for this inventive genre of tourism. Hyatt Regency Wuyuanwan’s marketing communication manager, Demi Gao shared that bleisure tourism is a buzzword among industry experts this year, and is predicted to be a very remunerative trend for tour and activity providers in 2018.

Gao said: “Because bleisure travellers are predominantly millennials who place great value on the notion of 24/7 connectivity, they do not mind blurring the line between work and play during their travels. Today’s young generation is often on a tight budget with significant time constraints, so a night out on the town or a party often turns into a networking opportunity to meet and socialise with other professionals in their field.”

And speaking of millennials, the worldwide phenomenon of younger travellers demanding customisable and personalised experiences, enabling them to tailor their own journeys and experiences to a tee, is actively making its way through China.

The country’s industry has witnessed a major technological shift to concepts such as online booking, Virtual Reality experiences, exchange platforms and online payment methods.

“The popularisation of mobile device use keeps growing. Networks such as Weibo, that started out as a web-based platform, now extend towards access through mobile browsers and apps, while other platforms, such as WeChat, which started out in mobile, now extend to a web-based interface,” Gao added. “We have also noticed that China has embraced mobile payments faster than any other country, especially for young generations. Last year, mobile payment transactions hit $5.5 trillion, making China the largest mobile payments market in the world, according to iResearch.”

A NEW CANDIDATE

And although China has seemingly mastered the art of technology, continuously thriving in the innovation department, the country’s tourism industry is taking a more calculated approach towards establishing its presence in certain markets – particularly the Middle Eastern market.

Updating TTG on the current status of this fruitful market within China was multi-property vice president and general manager, The Ritz- Carlton Sanya, Yalong Bay, Hoss Vetry: “We are starting to see travellers from the KSA, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Turkey abounding in Sanya. Most of them are first time visitors and, based on direct engagement with MENA guests staying at The Ritz-Carlton Sanya, Yalong Bay, they love Sanya because of its fresh air, great seafood, cleanliness and organisation.”

China has its eyes set on the Middle East, having recently invested $29.5 billion in the market, according to a report issued by the Kuwait-based Arab Investment and Export Finance Company.

“The cooperation is for both countries, and no doubt, there will be more travels happening both for leisure and business,” The Ritz-Carlton, Shenzhen’s multi-property vice president and general manager, Dr. Iwan R. Dietschi revealed. “As Shenzhen is a key hub for technology, Artificial Intelligence and robotics, we are confident that solid business ties will be rising from a more important partnership. Cross-cultural interaction is crucial in hospitality when we try to provide personalised services for the guests.”

China’s tourism industry is actively taking on bold risks and advancements to ameliorate its offering and entice a bouquet of markets, as it strengthens its foundation and works towards becoming one of the most developed countries in the world.

“I am very proud to be a part of this incredible evolution. There are more and more international travellers visiting China for both business and leisure,” Dietschi stated. “We, in the hospitality business, have to keep pace, try to be a step ahead and go beyond guests’ needs and expectations, by creating unmatched experiences to last a lifetime.”