More Chinese are traveling, and the more affluent travelers are taking it a step further by booking trips on mobile more frequently. This class of Chinese traveler is not only changing how destinations welcome tourists, but also how domestic travel apps cater to the most profitable demographic.
Affluent Chinese travelers prefer travel apps to traditional agencies because the platforms allow them to navigate their options easily with itineraries, prices and customized services at their fingertips. In fact, more than half of those travelers booked trips online in 2017, according to a September report from China-based research agency Yaok Institute.
High-end travel app booking experienced a boom in early 2012 amid the government’s anti-corruption campaign, many businesses seized the potential of another luxury market that focused more on experiences than material goods. But the competition in this space has been fierce, as online itineraries can be easily copied by competitors. Many have sought to diversify their offerings with technology (e.g., WeChat mini-program, VR) innovation and customizable trips. Here are five online travel agency apps that affluent Chinese travelers love:
Launched in 2014, SparkleTour is the high-end arm of one of China’s three major tour corporations, CYTS. What makes the platform unique is the customized trip-planning function. Every client from the loyalty program, SparkleTour Club, is paired with a consultant who conducts in-depth interviews with them and learns about their travel history, personal preference, and style. Sixty percent of the consultants have studied abroad and worked in the travel industry for an average of 10 years. Some of their popular curated trips include tracking wild elephants on safari in South Africa, chasing the northern lights in Iceland, or diving into an ice cave in the Antarctic for a sauna session.
The professional consultants have their fingers on clients’ travel pulse. Noting the recent shift in client demographics from the older 35- to 50-year-old crowd to a younger mix of post-’80s and ’90s travelers as well as their enthusiasm for outdoor adventures, SparkleTour formed a strategic partnership with National Geographic this year, establishing a team of experts for road trips, golf, adventure photography and more.