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Customised Travel

Taking a more holistic approach to tourism, exhibitors at the February Guangzhou International Travel Fair 2017 focused on offering packages that embraced every aspect of the destination region or country, including many of the lesser-known attractions, in response to Chinese mainland tourist demand for more in-depth and bespoke trips abroad.

Winner Mongolia
Winner Mongolia: the Ordos stand

For its part, the Guangxi Rural Tourism Industry Association launched a special promotion for tourists to visit the province's indigenous Zhuang tribe. According to Wu Yaowei, the Association's President, Guangxi has embraced the concept of niche regional travel long before the Chinese mainland government officially backed such initiatives.

In 2015, the Guangxi local government identified several niche travel-destination counties and cities within the region. It subsequently encouraged these designated areas to work together to maximise their potential benefits from the tourism sector. The local government earmarked some Rmb10 million worth of investment to these target destinations.

As part of the programme, several of Guangxi's best-known tourist destinations formed the core of the region's activity. Staff at each of these destinations were then briefed to promote the wider region, encouraging tourists to visit lesser-known spots. This policy boosted the economic well-being of the entire region, helping to alleviate poverty in a number of the less-developed areas.

The Lingnan niche tour exhibition zone
The Lingnan niche tour exhibition zone

To date, the region has successfully launched four premium tourism projects: green leisure tours, longevity and wellness cultural tours, Zhuang cultural tours and China-Vietnam border adventure tours.

Embracing a number of grade AAAA scenic spots in the cities of Chongzuo, Baise and Nanning in Guangxi, the 400 kilometre-long China-Vietnam border adventure tour offers a blend of border scenery, ethnic group cultural experiences, exotic cuisine, traditional tourist destinations and the highlights of a number of local counties and cities.

Recently, Guangxi's health and wellness tours have been particularly popular. There are now 25 counties in the region that have been officially endorsed for their health-giving benefits, accounting for a third of all such counties in the whole country.

With Bama county taking the lead and with support from Nanning city, Rongshui county and Yizhou city, the region is promoting its health and wellness tours across the mainland. Representatives from the region are also active in northern China, where they promote the benefits of winter retreats to Guangxi for the elderly. Apart from helping to boost visitor numbers, this has also benefited the region's real-estate sector.

"Visitors to Guangxi will enjoy a rich and unique tourism experience across the region,” said Du Ying, Secretary-General of the Guangxi Rural Tourism Industry Association. “While this clearly benefits them, it is also good for the local economy."

Bespoke Tours

China Britain Travel Group's pavilion
China Britain Travel Group's pavilion
Tourism products on display
Tourism products on display

According to industry statistics, some 6.15 million Chinese nationals chose to holiday abroad during this year's Spring Festival, a seven per cent rise over last year. Reflecting the growing demand, 66 per cent of the exhibitors at this year's event came from outside China.

The China Britain Travel Group (CBTG) focuses on organising travel between China and the United Kingdom. According to Xu Weixing, the company's Deputy General Manager, many UK tours offered by other mainland agencies follow fixed itineraries, with relatively few opportunities for individual exploration. The CBTG, though, prides itself on offering custom-made tours.

This allows groups going on tours together – whether with other family members, friends or business associates – to have itineraries drawn up for them based on their preferences and proposed length of stay.

When such groups arrive in the UK, they can opt to be hosted by local travel staff throughout their entire stay, part of their stay, or solely for arrival and departure. The focus of the itinerary is on providing the maximum amount of consumer choice.

According to Mr Xu, an increasing number of mainland outbound tourists now want to plan their own itinerary. This, he believes, is partly down to dissatisfaction with the inadequate tour schedules offered to many mainlanders looking to visit the UK and other European countries. This has led would-be travelers to seek out a more satisfying experience, largely by creating their own itineraries.

It’s a view shared by Dai Hongjiang, a Senior Manager of the Beijing office of Oslo-based Samjak International Travel. Mr Dai said most first-time outbound travelers tended to choose a fairly superficial multi-country tour. But with more experience, he said travelers like to be more in charge of their itineraries.

For its part, Samjak focuses on tours of Northern Europe, with many of its clients keen to enjoy the unique landscapes and cultural highlights of Scandinavia.

Apart from bespoke itineraries, niche tours were also widely promoted at the event. Overall, four particular markets were seen as particularly lucrative: ice and snow tours; study tours; movie and TV drama tours; and air tours.

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Content provided by Hong Kong Trade Development Council
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