Friday, March 1, 2013

Come Fly with Mei

Let’s see how the other half lives, honey.

Chinese toddlers have spoken, and Chinese tour companies have heard their cry. Rich tots are no longer content with just receiving “My parents went to Italy, and all I got was this overpriced Armani T-shirt” gifts after an overseas trip. Wealthy Chinese are starting to turn away from vacations that simply revolve around luxury boutiques, follow-the-megaphone tour groups, or junket trips to gambling cities like Macau or Las Vegas. In increasing numbers, they are looking for “experiential” trips that focus on getting to know other cultures or communing with new environments. It’s the kind of trip that ordinary western travelers might call, er, a “standard vacation”. However, the similarities stop there. As reported in this Jing Daily article about new luxury travel trends for China's elite, ultra-high-end travel agencies have been set up to cater to jaded Chinese travelers who are willing to fork out up to US$189,000 for “round the world” trips. That amount of money is almost 50 times the average disposable annual income for Chinese urban residents. Yet, such first-class travel offerings are said to be selling out within a day.

One high-end agency, HH Travel, which is now a unit of Ctrip (China’s leading online travel company), claims that they had an average client spend in 2012 of $16,000 per person. Travel themes offered include an eight-day cruise in the Middle East ($13,000) or a South America adventure ($31,900). They are also offering an eight-day “Life of Pi”-inspired trip to India for $6,800. Let’s hope that this itinerary doesn’t involve one day in India and seven days on a life raft with a hungry tiger and hyena. If so, all that may be left of a toddler’s returning parents is the T-shirt.

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