This week BizChinaUpdate visited the Maldives, an archipelago of more than 1,000 islands in the Indian Ocean. Around 100 Maldivian islands have been developed for tourism, and are home to some of the world’s most luxurious resorts. The Maldivians know the Chinese are coming – in increasing numbers.
New municipal buildings in the capital, Male, are being constructed with Chinese financing, and hotels and resorts are starting to target Chinese travellers – which in the near future are expected to outpacethe large volumes of Europeans, Japanese and Russians that flock to the sun-drenched islands.
Influenced by greater opportunities to travel and rising urban incomes, Chinese overseas travel patterns are changing. While 70 per cent of China’s 40 million outbound travellers last year visited Hong Kong and Macau, another 13-14 million travelled further afield. Several glossy travel publications are sold on news stands, and Chinese travel journalists report regularly from destinations as diverse as Sicilian vineyards, Canadian ski fields and South African safari parks.
Several clichés are often touted about Chinese travellers. We often hear that they “only go in large groups,” “only like to go shopping”and “only like to eat Chinese food” on their travels. On a general basis, these statements are true, but new trends are emerging, especially for young Chinese travellers.
Anecdotal evidence, perhaps, but the two young Shanghainese couples we met in the Maldives last week debunked these clichés. They travelled as a foursome and photography, rather than shopping, was their primary activity each day. At night, they tucked into Sri Lankan curries and seemed as at ease with their choice as the British, Russian, German and French tourists in the same dining room.
Chinese travel patterns will continue to evolve, and they are influencing the way the travel industry operates. Chinese-speaking staff are now employed by hotels and brand stores in major cities worldwide. Travel literature is also adapting. Guidebook publisher Lonely Planet, for example, has set up a Beijing-based joint venture to produce bespoke Chinese-language travel guides. Unlike previous products, these new guides will not be translations of guides originally published in English, but books researched and penned by Chinese travel writers. Initially, the guides will focus on destinations in China, but the plan is to produce global guides for Chinese travellers.