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Chinese tourists are embracing ‘themed travel’

Themed travel is a fast-growing trend among Chinese tourists – with more than two in three from mainland cities prepared to try it as a hobby. 

Themed travel is a relatively new tourism category identified by markers, including concepts such as health and wellness, wedding photography and self-drive tours. 

“Having new experiences is important when it comes to travelling,” explains Saskia Zhao, travel and leisure analyst at Mintel China Reports. “In light of this, companies in China’s travel industry are moving beyond simply offering traditional travel products and are introducing themed travel to the market. 

“There are two ways in which themed travel is commonly defined in China: by travel method, for example self-drive tours, or travel itinerary, for example photography or wedding themed. Our research shows that hobbies and in-depth travel experiences are what’s motivating Chinese consumers to try themed travel,” she said. 

“To appeal to these consumers, customisation and offering experiences of superior quality are key. The focus of innovation in themed travel can be expanded from new routes and destinations to selling hobby-based experiences like food and outdoor activity tours. This will also allow consumers to meet with like-minded individuals, seeing how socialisation is another key driver for the themed travel market.”

Research by Mintel suggests a desire for new experiences seems to be what’s driving interest in the category. 

Three in five urban Chinese respondents (of 3000 surveyed online aged 20-49) say they are motivated to try themed travel because it would make a suitable hobby (66 per cent) and is an in-depth travel experience (64 per cent). Opportunities for socialising is another driver with 45 per cent of respondents saying the desire to meet people with similar interests is a reason why they would like to try themed travel.

Popularity of self-drive tours

While still a relatively new concept, self-drive tours are picking up in China. According to Mintel research, 52 per cent of urban Chinese respondents have taken the more common self-organised tour (eg excluding RVs and self-drive tours) for their personal leisure travels in the last 12 months*, while 49 per cent say that they have taken self-drive tours. Self-drive tours are especially popular among the post-80s generation with 57 per cent of respondents having tried this way of themed travelling. This is followed by 48 per cent of post-90s and 41 per cent of post-70s consumers.

Health-and-wellness-themed travel

Finally, Mintel research reveals an opportunity for travel suppliers with health and wellness themed travel. As many as 74 per cent of Chinese respondents cited enjoying a slower-paced lifestyle as the most important reason to try health and wellness themed travel; while 67 per cent associate health and wellness themed travel with a nice environment and being beneficial to physical health, respectively.

For health and wellness themed travel, the top activities consumers are willing to pay more for include hot springs (67 per cent) and body-care services, such as massages or a spa, (63 per cent). 

“Healthy lifestyles are trending in China, opening up an opportunity for travel suppliers to explore health and wellness themed travel,” said Zhao. 

“Consumers say that enjoying a slower-paced lifestyle is important when it comes to health and wellness themed travel – likely because they long to relieve the stresses of daily life. 

“Companies in the health-and-wellness travel space can also motivate consumers with claims such as improving physical health and living in pure and healthy environments that are free from pollution. When premiumising their health and wellness themed travel offerings, companies should look at capitalising on natural elements such as hot springs and forest ‘oxygen zones’, as well as self-indulgent experiences like spas,” Zhao concluded.

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