Does China’s marriage rebound herald a luxury honeymoon tourism boom?

    After years of decline, China’s wedding rate rose in 2023, sparking cautious optimism for luxury hotels and resorts in leading honeymoon destinations around the world.
    Visa-free destinations like the Maldives and Bali remain a strong draw for Chinese honeymooners. Image: Shutterstock
      Published   in Travel

    After nearly a decade of a declining marriage rate, weddings are on the up in China. New statistics show that 7.68 million couples tied the knot last year, a rise of 12.4 percent over 2022.

    These figures follow recent reports from Shanghai and several provinces, including Jiangsu, Hunan, Shanxi, and Anhui, of rising marriage registrations – Jiangsu saw marriages increase 10 percent last year.

    This uptick bodes well for China’s honeymoon tourism segment.

    Attributed to a release of pent-up post-pandemic demand, a rising wedding rate could spark cautious optimism among luxury hotels and resorts in leading honeymoon destinations as more newly married Chinese couples look to celebrate their unions.

    However, a caveat is that statistics paint a picture of young consumers who are in no rush to get hitched.

    A blip?

    The increase in 2023 came after a 10.5 percent decline in weddings between 2021 and 2022, with 6.83 million couples saying “I do” in 2022. This is a huge drop from the peak of 13.46 million marriages in 2013, which bookended a nine-year-long decline.

    For those who do decide to marry, wedding spending in China remains high, averaging RMB 174,000 ($24,169) per couple. More importantly, this willingness to spend tends to extend to post-wedding planning, as the post-1990s generation that makes up the majority of marriages in China increasingly seeks unique honeymoon experiences.

    Customized matrimony

    In its “2022-2026 Honeymoon Travel Market Status Survey and Development Prospect Analysis Report,” China-based intelligence firm Hangzhou Zhongjing Zhisheng Market Research detailed the evolution of China’s honeymoon travel market, which is evolving towards more personalized and nuanced travel experiences.

    This is a trend that mirrors the broader shifts in consumer preferences towards customization and exclusivity.

    Young Chinese between the ages of 20 and 30 make up 77.9 percent of China’s wedding market, with 29.7 percent of individuals belonging to the mid-income bracket, earning RMB 5,000-10,000 ($695-1,390) per month, the report found.

    This demographic is increasingly drawn to innovative travel options that promise a blend of personalization and adventure, such as private custom tours, small group travels, and boutique experiences.

    The report reveals another compelling statistic: approximately 60 percent of Chinese newlyweds plan to spend up to 31 percent of their wedding savings on honeymoon travel.

    The comprehensive relationship and honeymoon-planning app Couple’s Sign has amassed over 10 million users. Photo: Couple's Sign
    The comprehensive relationship and honeymoon-planning app Couple’s Sign has amassed over 10 million users. Photo: Couple's Sign

    Wedding apps reign

    Those planning their honeymoons are spoiled for choice in terms of planning resources.

    In China, honeymoon apps have carved out a niche, led by the likes of Couple’s Sign (情侣签), which has amassed over 10 million users. Its comprehensive suite of features – including anniversary reminders, a shared cloud for photos and videos, and a menstrual cycle tracker – has made it a popular choice among couples seeking a blend of functionality and emotional connectivity. Another standout, Qiongyou (穷游), caters to more adventurous couples with exhaustive travel guides and a streamlined booking process for accommodations and transport.

    Favoring destinations that promise more than a normal vacation, newly married couples in China are heading to domestic locales, such as Sanya, Guilin, and Yunnan, known for their natural beauty. Internationally, Chinese honeymooners are drawn to visa-free island destinations like Tahiti, the Maldives, Mauritius, and Bali, as well as more off-the-beaten-path European destinations like Óbidos, Portugal, underscoring an increasing desire for exclusivity.

    Singapore's Marina Bay Sands resort has invested in upgrading rooms and offering value-added services popular with Chinese couples. Image: Shutterstock
    Singapore's Marina Bay Sands resort has invested in upgrading rooms and offering value-added services popular with Chinese couples. Image: Shutterstock

    According to a spokesperson from Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands resort, “With the reopening of Chinese borders last year, we have seen a growth in the number of Chinese visitors enjoying their honeymoon at Marina Bay Sands, with bookings peaking during holidays such as Golden Week and Lunar New Year. With its newly refurbished rooms, romantic views atop SkyPark Observation Deck, and many celebrity chef and signature restaurants on property, the integrated resort presents the perfect venue for celebratory occasions.”

    Recent honeymooner Lisa Nan made her decision to travel to the Maldives earlier this month following exhaustive research. Says Nan, “The idea of going to the Maldives for my honeymoon was not a recent decision. To a certain extent, the influence of Chinese, Korean and Japanese romantic dramas played a key role in this decision. Since I was young, I knew I wanted [my] honeymoon to be in a place like the Maldives or Bali.”

    Chinese social media platform Xiaohongshu further reinforced Nan’s decision to opt for the Maldives for a romantic honeymoon.

    Xiaohongshu is packed with “many posts of young people traveling to Maldives, [while] travel agencies are posting marvelous pictures of its islands and presenting the most luxurious resorts to stay with appealing offerings and gifts for newlyweds,” said Nan.

    Ritz-Carlton, for one, offers newlyweds special packages that include welcome desserts and champagne, while other resorts provide a 24-hour butler service that allows couples to, as Nan says, “relax and spend time together, with no need to plan or think too much.”

    Other destinations like the aforementioned Marina Bay Sands are investing in upgrading their properties to keep tourists and newlyweds interested.

    Said the Marina Bay Sands spokesperson, “An ongoing US$1.75 billion reinvestment programme has given rise to around 1,280 rooms in Hotel Towers 1 and 2 being completely refurbished and another 550 rooms undergoing a revamp now. The transformation will result in more suites than before, a bigger team of well-trained butlers to be on call 24/7, and unique offerings such as a Golf Simulator and a Himalayan salt wall in our top suites, effectively elevating Marina Bay Sands in the luxury hospitality space.”

    Off-the-beaten-path destinations like Saudi Arabia could become more of a draw for Chinese honeymooners in the years ahead. Photo: Shutterstock
    Off-the-beaten-path destinations like Saudi Arabia could become more of a draw for Chinese honeymooners in the years ahead. Photo: Shutterstock

    Thailand, Saudi Arabia move up

    The continued appeal of destinations like the Maldives ties into the broader trend of Chinese outbound tourists venturing back into the world after several years of Covid lockdowns and largely domestic travel. Thailand, having welcomed 11 million Chinese visitors in 2019, saw about 3.5 million Chinese tourists last year. This year, the Tourism Authority of Thailand aims to host 8.2 million Chinese tourists, a significant rise of 134 percent.

    Similarly, Indonesia, which received 2.07 million visitors from China in 2019, saw only 570,000 in 2023. Yet, it is estimated numbers will grow 263 percent YoY this year to reach 2019’s level. A more directed effort to market to those planning luxurious honeymoons could help these countries attract more big-spending Chinese tourists in the years to come.

    Outbound Chinese tourists are increasingly being courted by newer players like Saudi Arabia, traditionally a business destination for Chinese travelers, which sees Chinese tourists as a pillar of its tourism strategy.

    With Saudi Arabia setting a target of five million Chinese tourists by 2030, from barely 100,000 in 2023, honeymooners could become a crucial demographic for the kingdom, with its luxury hotels and cultural offerings like AlUla potentially providing unique cultural experiences.

    The luxury travel market is responding to evolving demand in mainland China with tailored offerings aimed at capturing niche demographics like the newly married. From personalized romantic getaways in the Maldives to exclusive shopping experiences in Paris and culturally rich tours in Kyoto, the industry is fine-tuning its strategies to cater to the discerning tastes of Chinese honeymooners. The focus is on creating exclusive experiences that blend luxury with cultural authenticity.

    The economic implications of this shift are significant. Before the pandemic, Chinese tourists were the world’s biggest spenders in international tourism, contributing 20 percent to global tourism revenue. With the resurgence in marriages, there’s potential for a similar impact on the global luxury and hospitality markets. Industry analysts predict that destinations offering bespoke luxury experiences, enhanced by Mandarin-speaking staff and the integration of popular Chinese payment systems, could see a notable increase in Chinese visitors.

    • After years of decline, China’s marriage rate is climbing, leading to potential growth in the honeymoon tourism sector.
    • The rebound is spurred by the release of pent-up demand, propelled by the post-1990s generation, which seeks personalized and exclusive travel experiences.
    • Destinations like Sanya, Guilin, Yunnan, and international islands such as the Maldives and Bali are becoming increasingly popular for their natural beauty and exclusivity.
    • For brands in the luxury travel sector, tailoring offerings to cater to the evolving preferences of Chinese honeymooners for personalized, adventurous, and culturally rich experiences can unlock substantial market opportunities.
    • Global luxury and hospitality brands that offer bespoke luxury experiences tailored to the discerning tastes of Chinese tourists will be best placed to capture market share.
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