Dalian Abbey? Butlers In High Demand Among China’s Millionaires

“Asians Have Ah Yis In Their House Or A Driver Once They Reach A Certain Class”

A butler is not only seen as a personal assistant and household manager in China, but also a status symbol

No longer just seen as a perk at top luxury hotels, butlers are becoming a must-have for Asia’s wealthy, particularly in China, where millionaires are looking for more than the usual ayi to help run the household. As Asia continues to crank out new money, demand is growing not only for luxury goods, cars and jets, but also for the most stereotypically Victorian of Western imports: one’s very own “Jeeves.”

This, as former butler Tony Sharp told the Wall Street Journal, ties into the Asian imperative of face and connoting status among peers. Said Sharp, “You can have tens of millions of dollars in London and still wash your own car…But Asians have ah yis in their house or a driver once they reach a certain class. It shows status to have people attending to your household needs.”

What this growing demand in China translates to is an attendant growing interest in butler training courses in places like Australia, whose Australian Butler School has seen an uptick in its courses, and among British firms like Greycoat Placements, which now handles 20,000 butlers and domestic staff — triple what it had only four years ago. The greatest source of demand, Greycoat’s advertising manager told the WSJ, has come from wealthy Asians with second homes in Western countries.

The growing demand for butlers is not entirely unexpected, nor is it just appearing now. Though more newly wealthy Chinese are just now coming into contact with their first butler — mostly at high-end resorts in Sanya or Singapore — this trend has been gaining steam in mainland China for the past few years, yet has a much longer history in Hong Kong. As Josephine Ive of Australia’s Magnums Butlers said back in 2010, this is mainly due to the expanding global footprint of China’s wealthy. Said Ive, “There are now many more millionaires in China than before. [They] are traveling a lot more and are being exposed to different levels of service,” adding, “It’s very hard to put figures on the growing demand for butlers [in China], but almost all the top-end hotels are including butler services now.”

One interesting ripple effect of this trend is increased demand among China’s ultra-rich for English butlers in particular. As Bloomberg noted last year, this ties in not only to the rising number of wealthy Chinese buyers of real estate in London but also to this cashed-up group’s desire to both appear and become more worldly. As Robert Watson of The Guild of Professional English Butlers put it, “We are getting lots of enquiries from these Chinese who are sitting on piles of money. They are discovering that if you spend $8 million on a villa with marble flooring, you need someone to come along who knows what they are doing.”

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Market Analysis, Retail