As we continually seek further insight and forecasting of trends, preferences and niches that lurk within the booming affluent Chinese consumer market, China’s Golden Week holiday serves as a useful snapshot of behaviours and data.
Key Facts Seen from the Golden Weeks
- A Resurgence in Domestic Travel
According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, domestic tourism trips increased by 4.1% compared to 2019, with domestic tourism revenue growing by 1.5%. Notably, niche destinations and third and fourth-tier cities gained popularity, signaling a shift in travel preferences.
- International Travel Rebounds
With the resumption of international flights and improved visa policies, Chinese tourists seized the opportunity for overseas travel during this extended holiday. Border inspection authorities across the country processed 2.9 times more entry-exit numbers compared to the previous year, with Ctrip data revealing growing interest in long-haul destinations like Switzerland, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
- Thriving Travel Retail
Alipay data indicates a recovery in outbound travel transactions, reaching nearly 80% of 2019 levels, with per capita spending slightly surpassing 2019 figures. Asian destinations such as Hong Kong and Macau in China, and also South Korea remained favorites. Notably, UnionPay card transactions surged in Hong Kong and Macau in China, as well as Southeast Asia, and Europe, particularly in transportation, catering, duty-free shops, and department stores.
- The Reemergence of Cruise Travel
Cruise travel is poised for a comeback, offering new opportunities in the tourism market for 2024. Ports like Tianjin and Qingdao have resumed operations, and domestic large-scale cruise ships are attracting attention. International cruise lines, including Royal Spectrum and MSC Glory, are experiencing increased ticket sales for their 2024 itineraries departing from Shanghai.
Two key findings from the 2023 October Golden Week which can be used for short-term trend seeking, guiding luxury brands’ tactical consideration when tailoring their strategies for the Chinese market.
- 3C Tourism: The realm of travel options is expanding, with 3C Tourism—embracing Citywalk, Countryside exploration, and Cultural immersion—leading the way.
- Travel + X: The world of themed tourism, known as Travel+X (where X can be anything from Music Festivals, Cultural journeys, Culinary experiences, Live Performances, to Academies), is experiencing a significant surge in variety and enrichment.
Six Travel Trends Stay for the Medium Term:
As we look ahead, several travel trends are likely to shape the upcoming travel season:
- Warm hearts, win wallets: There’s a noticeable shift towards prioritizing 心价比, or “heart-to-value” ratio in travel. Travelers are favoring smaller group sizes, customized itineraries, and a heightened focus on immersive experiences, emotions, and exceptional services. This shift encourages a slower pace, allowing travelers to savor every moment.
- Diversification of High-Quality Niche Travel: Travel recovery will become more diversified, with a growing demand for experience-heavy trips over mere relaxation. Chinese travellers are favouring themed holidays that include hiking in nature, cycling, live sports, art festivals and highly localised culinary tours.
- Escaping Tour Groups: Chinese travellers want an international experience from an international vacation. They seek a feeling of being less scheduled, more spontaneous exploration, still keen on the #citywalk trend to naturally discover the authentic reality of the destination.
- Both History and the New: The wish list of affluent Chinese travelers is high. They want to learn about the local culture and history, but they also want to experience the latest trends and developments. This is leading to a growing demand for travel to destinations that offer a mix of old and new.
- The Rise of Bleisure Travel: Bleisure travel, which is a combination of business and leisure travel, is becoming increasingly popular among Chinese travelers. Bleisure travel allows them to combine work and leisure, and to have a more relaxing and enjoyable experience. This presents a significant opportunity to capture travelers who are already researching and planning work breaks, and to promote leisure activities and destinations within easy traveling distance to tempt them to extend their breaks and bring the family.
- Culinary Travel Prevails: Food and beverage experiences continue to shape travel memories and drive repeat visits. Chinese travelers are increasingly looking for in-depth and insightful, highly-detailed culinary experiences when they travel. They want to try new and different cuisines, and to learn about the local food culture. This is leading to a growing demand for culinary tours, cooking classes, and other food-related activities.
These takeaways point to travel brands and destinations looking at:
- How locally immersive is it possible to make the experience?
- Can the trip be themed around a specific niche, hobby or passion?
- What do the 3 Cs come into play?
- In the new expectation of travel + X, what’s your X?
- Statistics by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the People’s Republic of China
- Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day Travel Summary Report by Ctrip
- Outbound travel service data by Alipay Group