Four of Europe's top museums, namely the Louvre, Pompidou Center, Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, plan to close their doors to exclusively welcome a group of 10 travelers from the Chinese mainland on March 10.
A Shanghai resident who called himself Charles Wang is one of the travelers who paid 145,000 yuan ($23,243) each for a 10-day tour of Europe.
Also on the schedule for Wang, who works in finance, is the privilege of entering the European Fine Art and Antiques Fair, the world's largest art and antiques trading market, in the Netherlands, during an exclusive welcome for the Chinese travelers next month.
"I started to get involved in collecting art just a few years ago and since then always planned to visit the fair, which attracts more than 300 private charters from across the world to Holland (for the private purchase of art) every year. I didn't make it last year so I was immediately attracted when I heard about this offer from a Chinese travel agency — the privilege that the Louvre only opens for you and the early admission to the European Fine Art and Antiques Fair are a privilege beyond most individual traveler's dreams," said Wang, who will pack his luggage for the first-class trip to Europe early next month.
The travel package, which specifically targets China's high-end tourism market, is offered by HH Travel, whose services focus more on luxury experiences during a trip than adventure pursuits.
According to You Jinzhang, president of HH Travel, the company's global tour package, at a cost of 660,000 yuan ($105,939), sold out in 30 seconds last year and it took only 17 seconds before places on the 1.01 million yuan 80-day package for 2013 were snapped up.
Apart from its most popular round-the-world tour, the travel agency also attempts to gather together clients with similar demands and organizes packages on a larger scale. HH Travel's approach to broadening luxury horizons, however, is questioned by most companies and analysts in the customized travel market. They say high-end service cannot be provided on a large scale because it is designed to cater for individual client's demands.
Thanks to Ctrip, China's largest online travel service provider in terms of market share, HH Travel may be able to offer even more destinations. Ctrip moved into the luxury travel market in a cooperation with Life TM Group, one of China's top luxury service providers, to form a new company in 2012.
HH Travel is in fact their baby and benefits from the ability to identify potential clients because it knows who travels at least five times a year by first class from Ctrip's 60,000,000-member database, said You.
"We figured our clients had a better acceptance of standardized tourism products — more than 60 percent of them chose standardized tour packages last year and 20 percent of them requested only slight adjustments over the provided products," You said, adding his early expectation was that the Chinese would prefer a more customized service.
The average spending of HH Travel's clients last year was approximately 100,000 yuan each despite the fact the country's high-end travel market is still in its infancy.
China has more than 2.7 million people with personal assets of more than 6 million yuan and 60 percent of them are willing to choose luxury travel, which seems like a gold mine in the eyes of not only HH Travel but also some smaller travel agencies across the country.
"I don't have any fixed schedules for our clients. If any of them approaches me, I'd ask what they want and make a private and customized travel plan for them," said Lu Leying, who's responsible for the Shanghai-based high-end travel agency My Tour Traveling Consulting's marketing department.
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