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China expected to rise in luxury travel market

By Zhuan Ti (China Daily)

08:07, July 31, 2013

China will figure more prominently in the global luxury travel market, according to experts.

Lu Xiao, an assistant professor specializing in luxury brand management at Fudan University, said due to the country's rapid economic development, many people are seeking new experiences and this will play a dominant role in the luxury market in the future.

"Now Chinese people account for 25 percent of global luxury consumption," Lu said during the opening forum at the annual International Luxury Travel Market Asia last month in Shanghai.

He said China has 2 million people whose personal assets exceed $2 million but nearly 60 percent of them have yet to spend their money on luxury services.

"To spot them, get them involved, communicate with them and offer services they want are key to luxury brands' success," Lu added.

Alison Gilmore, ILTM Asia's director, said the Chinese are becoming a major sought-after target in the luxury travel market.

The Chinese rank third by popularity among luxury travel agents after South Koreans and Australians at the ILTM Asia, which attracted 497 potential buyers and nearly 500 exhibitors from around the world.

Gilmore said the event was designed to bring the world's premium creators of luxury travel experiences to discerning buyers, adding that her organization tries its best to attract more wealthy Chinese people.

"We are always interested in new buyers, planners and luxury travel suppliers, although they must undergo a strict qualification process," Gilmore said.

Robert Cheng, vice president of marketing at the Peninsula Hotels group, said his company has been attending the ILTM Asia in Shanghai for six years, as well as the ILTM in France.

"Both are very useful and beneficial to us. These trade shows allow us to focus our targeted audience," Cheng said.

The company plans to open a new hotel in Paris very soon, and hopes to target the traditional luxury travelers from the United States and Europe as well as those from the emerging markets like Asia.

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A Hurun report released at the exhibition indicates that travel accounts for a major part of the Chinese people's luxury consumption.

The Chinese Luxury Traveler 2013, compiled by surveys of about 100 Chinese people whose personal assets exceed 10 million yuan ($1.63 million), shows that 63 percent of the wealthy in China choose travel as their favorite form of entertainment, with France, the US and Singapore as the top three overseas destinations.

"Paris is a very potential destination. It is very encouraging to see the upcoming travelers from Asian and Middle East countries," Cheng said. "Definitely the development of China market is like many markets many years ago, and I think China is more than ready for outbound travel."

Fledging overseas travelers tend to go in group tours and stay in budget hotels. When they become more experienced travelers, they prefer to travel individually and pick more comfortable luxury hotels like Peninsula, he said.

The Hurun report also places Chinese travelers first in regards to spending for three consecutive years. In 2012, they accounted for 24 percent of tax-free consumption worldwide, 8 percentage points higher than Russians.

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