Vivienne takes her parents to Chiang Mai and learns Thai Boxing

China Travel Outbound’s Beijing Director, Vivienne, travelled to Thailand last week on holiday. Like a growing number of Chinese 30-somethings, she took her parents with her, and immersed herself in the experiences offered in Chiang Mai. Here she tells us why there’s a huge growth in multi-generational travel and how experiential holidays are important to the Chinese.

I recently journeyed with my parents to Chiang Mai in Thailand where we enjoyed glorious food and weather. I made some interesting observations about Chinese travellers there but first I’d like to explore their changing travelling preferences.

Chinese independent travellers are rising. Group tours and set itineraries are no longer prominent features of travelling. Instead, Chinese millennials especially are growing more confident in planning and booking every aspect of their trips. According to a TripAdvisor survey, 9 in 10 of them do so. And while shopping does still feature highly on Chinese travel itineraries, there is also a growing demand for booking unique and authentic experiences.

Experiential travel is becoming increasingly more attractive to Chinese travellers, especially if we can share our activities on social media. We are getting tired of the same mainstream destinations, Chinese travellers are looking for once-in-a-lifetime experiences; from visiting wineries to polar expeditions, there is nothing the Chinese won’t try. Much evidence has been found for the growth of experiential travel; road trips are expected to grow by a whopping 75% over the next two years, adventure travel by 52% and polar travel by 32%. This makes it clear that, for travel destinations, highlighting local experiences is a high priority.

Multi-generational family travel is gaining momentum…taking advantage of holiday time by travelling with families is becoming more common.

As I did with my parents, multi-generational family travel is also gaining momentum. Young professionals nowadays focus on their careers leaving little to no time being spent with their families. Therefore for many Chinese people, taking advantage of holiday time by travelling with their families is becoming more common. I must also add that my parents’ generation, those born from 1955 to 1965, didn’t have many opportunities for anything – a good education, a good lifestyle, a window to the outside world. And with more and more people making good incomes nowadays, I’m in a position where I am financially capable to show them the world and treat them to experience the same things we did. And, perhaps most importantly, it allows us to give them the opportunity to show off in front of their friends! Lastly, another reason why multi-generational trips are becoming more popular is that they represent a token of our appreciation. Unlike in Western countries, grandparents more commonly look after and help to raise their grandchildren. Therefore, taking our parents on holiday is a way for us to express our gratitude at being there for us to help raise our children.

Taking our parents on holiday is a way for us to express our gratitude at being there for us to help raise our children.

As a result, multi-generational family travel is on the rise. According to ForwardKeys, family travel bookings for up to four people were up 18% in December 2016 compared to the previous year.

This brings me to Chiang Mai.

Whilst there, I was interested in experiencing some of Thailand’s local customs. The first thing I tried was a sweaty, but fun, boxercise class.

I also partook in a Thai cookery course which is where I made some interesting observations. When I first visited Chiang Mai four years ago, I registered for the same course. At that time, there was no Chinese-speaking course and I was the only Chinese tourist in the class.

Four years ago, I was the only Chinese tourist in the class. This time, I was able to sign up to a Chinese-speaking course.

However this time, I was able to sign up to a Chinese-speaking course and, not only that but, there were so many Chinese tourists there that they had to separate us into two groups with about 8 to 10 people per group. The English-speaking course? There was only one group with 8 tourists. This highlights to me how much Chinese travellers have changed and how far travel destinations have come in adapting to the needs of Chinese tourists.

Experiential travel is important to me as there are many things I want to experience and learn. If I visited Europe, there are a number of things I’d want to try. In the UK, I’d be really interested in partaking in a royal etiquette course as well as learning how to organise a traditional English afternoon tea party. With the right marketing and promotion, anything to do with tradition and the country’s history, such as baking classes and horse riding, would be popular with Chinese tourists. If I were to visit France, I’d opt for a cookery course again and, of course, lots of wine tasting, but also some short museum-organised courses about art would be of interest to me. And, most definitely, I’d sign up to a Flamenco dancing course if I travelled to Spain.


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