Visit any major tourism attraction in Thailand and it’s hard to miss one very distinctive visitor demographic: the Chinese tour group. While their shouting leaders and matching hats are hard to miss, another type of Chinese traveler is quietly growing in ranks in the Southeast Asian country that is now the fourth most popular foreign destination for outbound Chinese travelers—the independent luxury traveler.
One Bangkok hotel experiencing this growing trend is small boutique luxury property Hansar, which is located in the city’s posh business and shopping district Ratchaprasong. The independent, locally owned hotelier with a focus on modern design and Thai hospitality has seen growing numbers of arrivals by individual Chinese guests as many of China’s affluent outbound tourists seek out unique experiences that a typical guided tour can’t offer.
“Chinese travelers are an integral part of our business, and we have certainly noticed an upward trend in their number of stays since we opened,” says Hansar E-Marketing Coordinator Felix Dreizehnter.
Focused on high-quality, locally sourced materials, the Hansar appeals to a chic, style-conscious cosmopolitan traveler. The hotel boasts an infinity pool terrace, a chef with Michelin-star credentials overseeing its dining options, a trendy rooftop event space, and a luxe spa with its own signature line of spa products. Its sleek, modern rooms each feature a special “green wall” of plants and textiles designed by local boutique silk company Jim Thompson. At the 100 percent complimentary mini-bars, the hotel features local Thai snacks rather than international brands. “We noticed our Chinese guests really like the local Thai snacks and bring these back home with them,” says Dreizehnter.
An estimated 60 percent of all Chinese travelers prefer to go abroad without a tour group, which is a welcome development for Hansar—which focuses exclusively on visitors not in tour groups. “We had a period of seeking large group bookings from Chinese guests, but found the really intimate spaces and intensely personalized service we have built our reputation on, we are much more suited to serve the independent traveler,” says Dreizehnter. “Now that it is becoming less common to travel as a group, our outreach to the Chinese market can be more targeted and purposeful.”
Chinese tourist numbers in Thailand declined in 2014 thanks to the country’s massive demonstrations and military coup, but have since been on their way back up. This year, Thailand is expecting its Chinese visitor numbers to grow by 30 percent from last year.
“There was not a single hotel left unaffected by the political situation,” says Dreizehnter of the 2014 slump. “However, we have been proactive in mitigating any fears by increasing our on-property security. As the unrest settles, the numbers speak for themselves that the number of people traveling to Thailand is once again on the rise.” Bangkok is doing especially well as a top destination for Chinese visitors—it was the number one destination for Chinese New Year on travel booking site Agoda this year.
The main distinction among the rising crowd of independent Chinese travelers to Thailand is the fact that they’re seeking out luxurious and unique accommodations to fit their personal taste, with a growing focus on experience. “Many Chinese travelers have an exquisite eye for detail,” says Dreizehnter. “They know what they want, and are exacting in in their requests.” While tour group travelers are often on their first trip to Thailand (or their first international trip, for that matter), the independent visitors tend to be more well-traveled and experienced, with high standards and demand for more unique options.
According to Hansar, one top activity for Chinese guests still isn’t that different from their tour group counterparts, however: shopping. The hotel’s walking distance from some of Thailand’s biggest shopping malls make it a prime spot for Chinese visitors, who also often purchase a special room rate that includes a card for the city’s Sky Train so they can easily go sightseeing.
As Chinese visitor growth grows, Hansar is working to appeal specifically to Chinese guests by celebrating Chinese New Year and offering Chinese breakfast options. Dreizehnter is confident that the hotel will see continued growth in the future: “We serve a highly distinguished and discerning market sector, and as more Chinese travelers search to go beyond standard luxury brands, they find Hansar.”