The stereotypical image of Chinese tourists abroad is of large tour groups following a guide with a red flag through sightseeing spots and shopping malls.
But all that could be about to change, as the country’s leading travel agencies attempt to replace traditional tour packages with high-end experiences.
Just yesterday, China Travel Service (CTS), a big player in the travel industry, announced it will cooperate with vacation resorts in South Korea to provide packages that appeal to well-off families, eco-golfers and winter sports enthusiasts.
“Getting in and out of a tour bus at tourist spots and being in a rush is no longer working with outbound tourists,” said Zhang Ping, president of CTS. “We have to move upstream in quality and create tourism products tailored to the demands of individuals and that give people more freedom for unique experiences.”
The company says its cooperation with South Korea’s GB Networks, an agency that provides travel services to 14 resorts, will give Chinese tourists access to large-scale ski resorts, golf courses, water parks, hotels and convention centers.
Jin Chengxiu, director of the CTS’ branch in Seoul, said it was the first time a Chinese travel agency has attempted to tap into the South Korean resort market, which currently attracts a large number of Korean and international tourists, but few Chinese.
“Most resorts are in northern Gangwon Province, which has a smooth, sandy coastline and is known as the epicenter of winter sports in Korea,” he said. “Chinese tourists, especially those traveling with their families or for business conventions, can spend several days and nights in one place relaxing.”
The province is also the site of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, and authorities expect to draw 10,000 tourists from China each year in the lead-up to the event.
According to Zhang, Chinese tour agencies are making bold attempts to offer a variety of high-end tourism packages to cater for a booming market demand.
“Some remote but captivating destinations that were believed to be too expensive for Chinese tourists are becoming more popular,” said Zhang, adding that the agency has organized trips to Seychelles in the Indian Ocean with chartered flights this year. “Because the number of Chinese outbound tourists is increasing, the prices of hotels and airline tickets are getting lower, which can cut the price for outbound travel.
“Amid the economic downturn, people are more likely to spend money on tourism to relieve stress. The industry is now also promoted by the Chinese government as a way to stimulate consumption.”
According to the National Tourism Administration, 38 million Chinese tourists traveled overseas in the first half of this year, up 18 per cent from the same period last year.
After Japan, China is South Korea’s second largest source of inbound tourists. A new visa policy will come into effect next month, loosening restrictions on Chinese tourists in a bid to promote tourism.