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Jet-set life takes off for country's super-rich

By Shi Yingying in Shanghai  (China Daily)

08:49, February 25, 2013

Discounted items are quickly snapped up by Asian tourists at the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris. During the week-long Spring Festival holiday, which started on Feb 9, many Chinese people traveled abroad where they bought luxury products. Yoan Valat / For China Daily

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.

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