China’s millennials make up a formidable force in the global tourism industry with travel habits that differ dramatically from those of their parents, according to the results of Hotels.com’s 2015 China International Travel Monitor report released today.
Defined by the report as those aged 18 to 25, this age group is “more likely than their older counterparts to favor adventure, cheaper accommodation, independent travel, and digital sources when booking and making travel decisions.”
Chinese millennial travelers certainly aren’t a segment to ignore in the global travel industry—their numbers are on the rise at a growth rate of 11 to 25 percent worldwide. A total of 59 percent of all hoteliers have seen more Chinese millennial travelers over the past year, while 78 percent in the APAC region have seen a rise, according to the study. An earlier study by Bank of America Merrill Lynch found that travelers aged 25 to 34 make up 35 percent of all outbound Chinese tourists, while those aged 15 to 24 make up 27 percent.
This group favors travel freedom over tour groups, with 58 percent opting to travel independently. This preference marks a huge generation gap from older travelers, since 81 percent of those aged 46 to 54 prefer to go with group tours.
Unsurprisingly, these intrepid young travelers are more adventurous than their older counterparts, listing sightseeing as their favorite activity while traveling, followed by dining and shopping. They’re also more “open-minded about staying in hotels that might not focus on catering for their specific cultural and other needs,” and the younger contingent (age 18-20) is more willing to stay at hostels and backpacker-type places. Only 9 percent say safety is the most important concern for choosing accommodations, while half of all respondents across age groups said safety was their primary concern while traveling.
Leisure trumps business travel for this carefree group—91 percent travel for fun, while 43 percent do so for work. Family is also important, since almost one in five have traveled to visit relatives. Cruises are two percentage points more popular with millennials than they are for the overall average across age groups, as 15 percent of millennials surveyed said they’ve taken one. Once this group hits their 30s, they become much more concerned with their appearance: 9 percent of those in the age group of 31 to 35 have traveled for beauty treatments and cosmetic surgery, compared to 6 percent of all millennials and 4 percent across all age groups.
In addition, this tech-savvy group is digitally oriented, with 50 percent using mobile booking. When planning their trips, they rely less on travel agents and more on review sites and online accommodation booking, while 30 percent use social media. They also want to stay plugged in when they get to their destination—63 percent of all Chinese millennial travelers surveyed said that WiFi is a key amenity they look for in a hotel. This gets even more important as they get younger—among 18 to 20-year-olds, WiFi is important for 70 percent.
This younger group reflects the future of the Chinese travel market—which is increasingly made up of independent, confident, and experience-oriented tourists who self-book online and are looking for something unique on their trips. For hoteliers and retailers alike, these trends call for a focus on branding through a strong customer experience as well as digital channels so Chinese travelers will come through the door—even if they’re not getting there on a tour bus.