2 June 2016

Dissecting Chinese luxury traveller behaviour

Source: Marriott International. Peggy Fang Roe, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Asia Pacific, Marriott International (left) and Rupert Hoogewerf, Chairman and Chief Researcher, Hurun Report (right).
Source: Marriott International. Peggy Fang Roe, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Asia Pacific, Marriott International (left) and Rupert Hoogewerf, Chairman and Chief Researcher, Hurun Report (right).
  • China’s young luxury travellers go abroad every three to four months, mainly for leisure
  • They spend RMB420,000 (US$65,000) on tourism per year and RMB220,000 (US$34,000) on shopping while travelling
  • They demand personalised luxury experiences, Wi-Fi, and next-generation guest services on smart devices as standard
  • Japan is the top destination for shopping, France is the most popular destination in Europe and Australia is the top destination for leisure

Marriott International and the Hurun Research Institute have shared the first Chinese Luxury Traveler 2016 study, marking the first-of-its-kind collaboration between an international hotel company and an authority on Chinese luxury travel.

The report’s key findings reveal a shift in travel habits among travellers aged 18 to 36. The research shows that they want a more personalised luxury experience and added value throughout the entire hospitality ecosystem – from planning a trip, to requesting guest services, to selecting which loyalty programme to join.

The report reaffirms that when it comes to services and information, China’s young luxury travellers prefer to do it digitally. Interactive guest services on smart devices are far more popular than traditional guest services, and travellers also expect this smart technology to record and manage their personal preferences.

China’s young luxury travellers also conduct their research on digital platforms. WeChat emerged as their primary source of travel information, obtained from official WeChat accounts and the accounts of friends and professional travel advisors. Third-party apps are also important information channels.
China’s young luxury travellers are seeking a wider choice of unique and novel travel experiences. They are interested in adventure travel, polar exploration and road trips take them further afield to a wider range of destinations around the globe. With greater opportunities at their fingertips, this group of young luxury travellers feel underwhelmed by loyalty programmes.

“This is a key focus area for Marriott,” said Peggy Fang Roe, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Asia Pacific at Marriott International, which in the first quarter of 2016 saw a 7% increase in domestic travelers in China and a 25% increase in Chinese outbound travelers.

Fang Roe continued, “We are responding to the desire for personalised luxury and services by evolving our loyalty programme Marriott Rewards, which goes far beyond hotel-level perks. Elite Member benefits now include tailored VIP access to rewarding experiences such as culinary demonstrations, concerts and catwalks, the NBA Global Games in China, and lots more. We are also piloting a new hospitality programme called Li Yu (礼遇) which is tailored specifically for our Chinese guests, with Mandarin-speaking personalised assistance and service across our hotels to make them feel at home, wherever they go.”

Rupert Hoogewerf, Hurun Report Chairman and Chief Researcher, said, “Despite the economy slowing, the impact on outbound travel from high net worth individuals seems to have steadily grown. The young luxury travellers have developed significant spending firepower, minted on the back of the recent boom in Chinese entrepreneurship, together with a growing class of second generation ‘rich kids’.”

Key findings from the research:

Experienced travellers with high spending power

This year’s report focuses on young, luxury travellers born after 1980. Relatively wealthy, these Generation Y travellers spend an average of RMB420,000 (US$65,000) on tourism per household, per year, and an average of RMB220,000 (US$34,000) on tourist souvenirs, primarily clothing, bags, watches and jewellery. Their average hotel budget is RMB3,100 (US$500) per night. Experienced travellers, they have been to an average of 13 countries and have been abroad 3.3 times in the past year for approximately 25 days, 69% of which was leisure travel.

Popular destinations

Europe is the destination of choice for young luxury Chinese travellers, with 61% of respondents visiting that region in the past year and 65% planning to visit in the next three years. Japan was the most memorable destination for Generation Y luxury travellers in 2015 and their most visited destination over Chinese New Year 2016. Travel to Japan was strong last year due to its close proximity to China, coupled with convenient shopping, attractive dining experiences, and a modern, sophisticated culture.

Shopping and food in Japan are popular with young luxury travellers while the US is seen as an important destination for business travel. France is the most popular destination in Europe and known as a shopping paradise. Australia is the top leisure destination, while the UK is the top destination for visiting friends and family.

Travel time: flexible, family-oriented

More than half (55%) of young luxury travellers said that in the next year, they are most likely to travel whenever it fits their schedule. National Day Golden Week (黄金周) in October was the second most popular period, with 36% of respondents claiming this as their preferred travel period. It is interesting to note that most Generation Y luxury travellers have either very young children or no children at all, and that only 20% are interested in travelling over the summer (Q2 to Q3). Family travel peaked during Chinese New Year (which falls anywhere in between January or February depending on the year), with 56% of young luxury travellers going abroad last year over this period. Almost all (90%) travelled with family or friends, in a party of four people on average, and stayed abroad for 8.5 days.

Diverse reasons to travel

Compared to 2015, young luxury travellers are expected to seek more diverse travel experiences in the next three years. Leisure and vacation are still the most popular reasons to travel, but young travellers also cite new and more challenging reasons to go abroad. Global travel, adventure travel, polar exploration and road trips have captured their imaginations, and each category is expected to rise by 25%, 52%, 38% and 75% respectively over the next three years.

Choice of accommodation

Although 41% of general travellers say that room cleanliness is their top concern when choosing a hotel, 42% of young luxury travellers with a household net worth over RMB100 million cite personalised service as their most important consideration. Luxury amenities are also important, including new facilities and cozy lighting. They seek a tailored guest experience, including a selection of pillows, and personalised service through a butler or interactive digital channels. They favour hotels that provide high-tech digital equipment, like Wi-Fi (73%) and Smart TVs (55%), which offer a more enjoyable stay as well as bespoke, convenient service. They prefer brands and hotels with unique art and design that make the travel experience feel unique and fun.

Loyalty and travel programmes

In terms of frequent flier programmes, Air China is the clear winner (51%), followed by China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines. For international travel, Lufthansa is the top choice due to a diverse selection of European routes and convenient transit (19%). In general, awareness of hotel loyalty programmes is low among young luxury travellers, who say that many membership programmes don’t offer unique or high value benefits.

Information channels

Young luxury travellers receive information primarily through official WeChat subscription accounts (48%), WeChat Moments shares from friends (47%), and websites (42%). Male travellers tend to obtain information from websites while female travellers prefer WeChat shares and friends’ recommendations. Third-party apps are also important information channels, with C-Trip, Qunar, and Tuniu being the most popular platforms.


Read the report in English or in Chinese
Compare against 2015 Chinese luxury travel trends