23 May 2024 World leisure: news, training & property
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Spa Business
2023 issue 3

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Leisure Management - On the rebound – China's wellness tourists


On the rebound – China's wellness tourists

Is your spa prepared for Chinese travellers as they return to the global stage? Fresh research from Finn Partners and CSG highlights the changing needs and behaviours of the world’s largest source of outbound tourists. Jenny Lo reports

Research was conducted hot on the heels of the Chinese government easing travel restrictions photo: shutterstock/Maridav
The pandemic has not dented the hunger to travel, spend and enjoy life photo: shutterstock/U_Photo
60 per cent of travellers say natural scenery is their first priority photo: shutterstock/Glowonconcept
Wellness is especially a priority for those aged 26-35 photo: shutterstock/Dasha Petrenko

Affluent Chinese travellers are eager and ready to see the world again. But after almost three years of living with rigid restrictions, what’s now influencing their preferences, concerns and purchases?

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 the country reopens its borders, the world is ramping up to welcome back Chinese tourists.

For this reason, global travel practice Finn Partners and marketing firm Consumer Search Group Research collaborated on a study designed to glean insights into today’s Chinese tourists. The report, called Outbound Rebound 2023: The Return of Chinese Travelers, was based on 2,000 respondents (see p119) and conducted hot on the heels of the Chinese government easing travel restrictions in January 2023 to better reflect sentiment and consumer insights.

Ready, set… spend
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 is backed by economic optimism. With borders open, wealthy Chinese people intend to boost their pre-pandemic pace of overseas travel though safety remains a top concern and will continue to influence destination choices.

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).

This market is seeking slow, recuperative travel and wants to spend time basking in nature. Those with disposable income 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 into their holidays.

Shift towards nature and wellness
Camping and outdoor activities have grown in popularity during the pandemic, reflecting a shift towards nature tourism. This trend is expected to stay and extend to outbound travel, with more than 60 per cent 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/sports 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.

Hotel expectations
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 insufficient; 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 desire 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’re satisfied with life in general, there’s reason to believe that the increase in travel frequency, duration and related spending can be sustained.

Survey methodology

Outbound Rebound 2023: The Return of Chinese Travelers was based on 2,026 affluent Chinese travellers and conducted in January 2023. Among the respondents, 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 for contrast and comparison purposes.

photo: FINNPartners

Jenny Lo

Originally published in Spa Business 2023 issue 3

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