Customised itineraries offer big opportunities for travel sector

More adventurous and better-off Chinese tourists are eschewing regular package deals and demanding customised tours that include exclusive visits to film locations, Michelin-star restaurants, ancient sites off the beaten track, and prestigious sporting events.

According to joint research by ForwardKeys and the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI), China outbound bookings for the summer are ahead 13.5%. The demand for customised travel showed a 300% growth in 2017 and this year there are currently more than120,000 new orders a month, representing a market share of almost 15%.

Data from ForwardKeys, which predicts future travel patterns by analysing 17 million booking transactions a day, shows that China bookings for Europe are ahead 10.5% this summer.

Europe – and particularly the UK – are the destinations most favoured by the new customised travellers from China. 

The new customised Chinese travellers tend to be younger than average, “money-rich and time-poor”. They’re prepared to pay more than average for the chance, for instance, to stay in a glass igloo in Finland or propose to their partner in front of the Eiffel Tower. According to the Chinese travel services provider, Ctrip, it’s a sector in which expenditure is typically around US$400/ person/ day, that’s set to grow further.

Until recently, mass-market package tour groups from China boosted a destination’s visitor numbers, but their spending was limited to famous landmarks during high seasons. Ctrip says the trend is to make customised travel an “affordable luxury”, available to more Chinese.

Professor Dr Wolfgang Georg Arlt, COTRI founder, said: “Europe is a perfect example of destinations that have great potential to fulfil the demand for customised travel from China, owing to its rich history and broad cultural diversity.