2016/01/30

A wealth of holiday options for the country's superrich jet set

As more Chinese names make it onto the global rich list, luxury tourism packages are proving more popular.

The number of Chinese billionaires swelled to 596 in 2015, which saw the country overtake the United States for the first time, according to Hurun Report, a market-intelligence company.

"Despite the economic slowdown, China's richest people created more wealth in a single year than any country has ever done before," says Rupert Hoogewerf, the chairman of Hurun, who has tipped China to become the world's top luxury-tourism market.

How to tap that potential is the question now being asked by those in the industry.

In early 2014, Beijing Utour International Travel Service launched Magic Travel to cater to the expanding ranks of wealthy Chinese.

"Compared with years ago, the market is much more mature," says Li Mengran, Utour's publicity manager.

"Today, there's more to luxury travel than just being ostentatious."

A Hurun/International Luxury Travel Market Asia report released in May says half of all superrich travelers flew business class in 2014, compared to one-third the previous year.

Chinese luxury travelers have grown more accustomed to good service and well-planned itineraries, says Steve Spivak, vice-president of global sales for Tauck, the US-based tour organizer.

"Itineraries that offer rich, exotic experiences are now popular with superrich travelers, such as our Amazon River cruise or an expedition to a Kenyan national park."

Li adds that tours to the Arctic and Antarctica led by scientists and accompanied by professional photographers are also best-sellers.

The Hurun/International Luxury Travel Market Asia report says Antarctica was the most popular destination among China's high net-worth individuals in 2014, especially during the Spring Festival break. Other top luxury destinations were the Maldives, Australia, Dubai and France.

The report says the United Kingdom and Italy have seen significant increases in their popularity and forecasts that Europe will rank first in terms of luxury leisure travel over the next three years.

"Leisure and global travel are set to be the themes for the next three years, and next is polar exploration," the report says.

"Superrich travelers, while hoping for novel and extreme experiences, also crave physical and spiritual relaxation during their travels and vacations."