As China's luxury travel and tourism industry takes off, a wide array of travel agencies have sprung up to compete for a slice of this massive market. The fierce competition in this field has made it imperative for service providers to truly understand the rapidly-changing needs of the country's luxury travelers.
A recent report published by Hurun Research Institute, a research firm that specializes in understanding the behaviors and trends of China's wealthy population, provides insights into what Chinese luxury travelers most expect from travel agencies. The research suggests that the quality of customized travel services that agencies offer is the major factor that determines the level of satisfaction by Chinese luxury travelers. Therefore, if agencies fail to address this need appropriately, they are likely to lose customers to their rivals.
The growing importance of customized travel service comes hand in hand with the rise of Chinese Free Independent Travelers (FIT) in recent years. FIT travelers, often time, travel alone or in small groups that own the autonomy in planning their itineraries. However, the emphasis on independence does not mean that they don't have the need for professional service offered by travel agencies. In fact, the customized travel service is extremely popular among FIT travelers before they take trips.
According to the Hurun report, about 60 percent of surveyed luxury travelers said that they have used customized travel services over the past year. Meanwhile, 55 percent of them noted the quality of such services provided by agencies is the differentiator when it comes to choosing which agency they like to use.
A breakdown of the expectations towards customized travel services by Chinese luxury travelers shows that "well-planned itineraries" (59 percent) and "personalized services" (55 percent) are the top two reasons why Chinese tourists choose one agency over the other. Respondents also place more importance on the agency's ability to solve problems during the trip, as compared to two years ago. In addition, the ability for agencies to acquire exclusive resources such as events, accommodations, and activities is also crucial to luxury travelers.
The same report also includes a ranking of top 12 outbound luxury travel agencies that are favored by mainland Chinese travelers in 2017. One major player Ctrip was named on the list, with other companies such as 8 Continents, HHtravel, and Magic Travel.