From Chinese ‘Tourists’ to ‘Travelers’: Millennials’ Shifting Tastes Shape Outbound Market

    A new study finds that Chinese millennial travelers “cherish freedom more than their parents or grandparents" on their trips abroad as they ditch group tours.
    Chinese millennials are increasingly rejecting group tours when they travel abroad. (Jing Daily)
    Jing DailyAuthor
      Published   in Travel
    Chinese millennials are increasingly rejecting group tours when they travel abroad. (Jing Daily)
    Chinese millennials are increasingly rejecting group tours when they travel abroad. (Jing Daily)

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    As China’s outbound travel market reached 109 million people in 2015, trips abroad became more personalized, independent, and focused on meaningful experiences than ever before.

    According to a new annual study by GfK released last week, Chinese outbound travel growth has been massive, with retail spending of US$229 billion in 2015. This trend has reached destinations across the globe, which have seen astounding growth rates in the past five years—South Korea has seen its Chinese visitor numbers increase by 112 percent, Thailand 263 percent, Japan 157 percent, Europe 97 percent, North America 151 percent, and the Middle East 177 percent—just to name a few.

    These significant increases have been driven by the independent millennial age group, according to GfK, which states that 50 percent of China’s outbound tourists are between 15 and 29 years old. This group’s values are having a profound impact on the travel industry as their tastes shift from being those of “tourists” to “travelers.”

    Chinese millennials “cherish freedom more than their parents or grandparents,” according to the report, which means they’re rejecting the traditional tour group package for independent and personalized travel. They’re much more focused on pursuing their passions and finding “meaningful, adventurous, and exciting experiences” on their trips, which they will of course share immediately via their smartphone on social media platforms such as WeChat.

    This interest in experiential travel isn’t bad for the luxury industry, however. GfK notes that this is a group of high earners, with 66 percent of millennial outbound travelers belonging to the high-income bracket. Seven out of 10 of them hold “white collar” jobs, and their “financial standing is expected to increase as their careers advance.”

    More importantly, when it comes to tastes, members of this group are also more “hedonistic” than their parents’ generation and are willing to shell out more money to indulge and pamper themselves. In addition, they’re actually “slightly less price-sensitive” when it comes to spending, making them Asia’s biggest group of luxury consumers now and for the foreseeable future.

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