Where China’s rich travelers are heading throughout the pandemic

(CNN) — The sandy shores of Sanya. The mountains of Yunnan. Huge panda sanctuaries in Sichuan.

Rich Chinese tourists may well not be equipped to vacation internationally with simplicity these times, but they have no scarcity of eye-catching travel destinations in their individual backyard.

And it looks the country is readying for nonetheless one more growth in domestic travel in advance of Golden Week in October.

Immediately after far more than a thirty day period of rigorous limitations and lockdowns to stamp out a Delta variant outbreak, China documented no new local Covid-19 conditions on August 23 for the to start with time because July.

Prior to the outbreak — which was the worst in China given that 2020 — domestic travel had been on the upswing.

In accordance to a report by the China Tourism Academy, the sector anticipated close to 4.1 billion domestic outings in 2021, reflecting a 42% maximize compared with 2020. In addition, the academy has projected $511 billion in earnings from domestic tourism, up 48% yr on yr.

In the meantime, an annual study of higher-net-truly worth people by Chinese exploration agency Hurun Report uncovered that interest in domestic vacation jumped 31% 12 months on 12 months and 44% of respondents claimed they planned to enhance their travel paying out.

Women from the Bai ethnic group sell goods at a local market in Xizhou, Yunnan province.

Females from the Bai ethnic group provide products at a local sector in Xizhou, Yunnan province.

Kevin Frayer/Getty Photos

“Outbound tourism is officially discouraged, and the quarantine-on-return specifications are onerous,” Sienna Parulis-Cook dinner, director of marketing and advertising and communications at Dragon Path, a China-targeted electronic marketing and advertising company, tells CNN Travel.

“There is also social force and a perception of duty that you should not possibility some others by touring abroad and perhaps bringing back the virus with you.”

Even though international vacation continues to be tough, rich vacationers are getting just about every opportunity to investigate their dwelling state.

“Mainly because China is so huge. There are so quite a few diverse languages, cultures and foodstuff as properly — distinctive things improve in distinct regions,” Jolie Howard, the CEO of L’ VOYAGE bespoke non-public jet constitution services based in Hong Kong, tells CNN Vacation. “There is so much range.”

Locations of selection

In accordance to the 2021 Hurun Report, Sanya — a tropical playground on the island of Hainan south of mainland China — is the most common place among the rich domestic tourists. Frequently referred to as the “Hawaii of China”, it is filled with luxury resorts, quite a few managed by intercontinental brands.
Rating next is Yunnan, a mountainous area dwelling to historical cities, forests and tea plantations.
In Western media, the third and fourth destinations — Tibet and Xinjiang, respectively — usually make headlines, but it’s ordinarily for motives other than tourism.
The US, alongside with human legal rights view teams and other Western nations, has accused the Chinese federal government of genocide in Xinjiang and severely limiting freedoms in Tibet. China has denied these kinds of allegations.
Equally destinations have remained well known amongst domestic tourists. Xinjiang, in unique, noticed an uptick in people immediately after makes like H&M and Nike elevated fears about pressured labor earlier this yr, according to condition-operate tabloid World-wide Situations.
As a vacation vacation spot, Tibet has a well-deserved standing for spectacular Himalayan landscapes, historic monasteries and scrumptious cuisine. And Xinjiang province, China’s westernmost territory, is acknowledged for its historical hyperlinks to the Silk Street trade and Uyghur culture.

Meanwhile Sichuan — famed for its large panda sanctuaries, national parks and numbing regional delicacies — rounds out the leading five.

Why these destinations?

“They are traditionally preferred amid Chinese travelers, and the loaded outdoor means have built them even more common amongst elite tourists,” Mengfan Wang, Dragon Trail’s Shanghai-based mostly manager of research, tells CNN Vacation.

Outdoorsy experiences and adventure tourism have been essential trends within just the domestic tourism rebound, she provides.

“Rural significant-conclusion B&Bs have seen double-digit progress, specially in popular destinations this kind of as Moganshan — an spot of organic elegance shut to Shanghai.”

In the 1980s, Dong Yao-hui was portion of the initial a few-man group to stroll the total length of China’s Good Wall. Now, he’s centered on its preservation.

In accordance to Wendy Min, Journey.com Group spokesperson, the team has found an uptick in bookings for bucket record destinations like Shanghai Disney, Beijing’s Forbidden Metropolis and The Wonderful Wall of China — all presenting “easy, easy journey, excellent cultural activities, and best-rated lodging.”

“We’ve found amplified customer figures in areas like Guangzhou, Chongqing, Zhuhai, Dunhuang and Quanzhou — a recently mentioned UNESCO web page — is no doubt on quite a few journey wishlists,” Min tells CNN Travel.

Security continues to be paramount, together with won’t be able to-pass up experiences and attractive surroundings that “lends itself to good pictures.”

By land and sea

Rich Chinese travelers aren’t just deciding on their places in different ways — they’re also changing the way they get from level A to B to C.

Driving has become the dominant sort of transportation in locations this kind of as Shanghai and Guangdong, states Wang.

“A lot of people will also fly into a prime town (like Shanghai) and then get a preferred self-driving route in the southwest and northwest areas of China,” she provides.

Along the very same traces, Wang’s colleague Parulis-Cook states young and rich Chinese have also been having highway excursions in luxury cars, leasing high-conclude campervans and glamping at exclusive campgrounds.

“This craze is extremely influenced by social media and the chance to take shots although glamping — on social media platform Xiaohongshu, for illustration, consumers pose with Fendi handbags or Hermes blankets at their campsites,” provides Parulis-Cook dinner.

Meanwhile, yachting has turn out to be increasingly popular in leisure destinations this sort of as Hainan island — a longtime beloved amongst elite Chinese many thanks to its obligation-cost-free shopping, sandy seashores and lush golf classes.

In accordance to data from the Hainan Cost-free Trade Port, the range of recently registered yachts in Sanya in the initially fifty percent of 2021 grew 220% calendar year above year.

Extra tourists are traveling solo

Private air vacation also appears to be using a jetstream.

“We are viewing a ton of new clientele — possibly they weren’t making use of private jets prior to Covid-19 for the reason that industrial airways had been quick sufficient. Now, they want to journey privately since it can be safer, quicker (in terms of ready for Covid-19 checks), and you have access to all various airports,” suggests Howard of L’VOYAGE.

“We have even seen a good deal of growth in phrases of purchasers acquiring their very own planes following chartering a private jet for some time.”

A vacation resort in Sanya, China, scored the Guinness World Record for the premier underwater mermaid present, which highlighted 100 professional divers.

This pattern, she claims, reminds her of the industry’s momentum following the SARS outbreak in 2003.

“At that time, personal aviation got a ton of visibility and, yet again now, we are gaining a lot far more recognition.”

And even though their core prospects in China proceed to be organization vacationers, Howard has also noticed a change in journey behavior.

“It is really generally a combination — for example, our clients could go to Sanya for a organization conference then satisfy the family members for a several days of holiday getaway.”

Craving deeper activities

When it arrives to purely leisure vacation, Howard says the firm’s clientele prefer to explore far-flung locales — like Yunnan, Tibet or Xinjiang — that need a more significant time investment decision.

“Ahead of the pandemic, there had been intercontinental alternatives mainly because people could go abroad. But now, we are viewing elite tourists picking out places with wonderful clean up air, beautiful surroundings … like the gorgeous mountains in the Yunnan space.”

“You require much more than just two to 3 days in these adventurous locations. You will need time to examine, go mountaineering or have cultural encounters.”

No make a difference where elite Chinese vacationers go, Howard states exceptional food items is a key need.

“The foods ingredient is normally incredibly essential for our shoppers mainly because, culturally, the Chinese socialize all around the dinner table,” she points out.

“A put like Sichuan is a superior instance because it has good food items, as effectively as genuine techniques of escalating and developing ingredients. So our clients would very likely want to go to an organic and natural farm to learn more about how things are developed, get again to mother nature and love the clean air.”

A bamboo forest in Moganshan, China.

A bamboo forest in Moganshan, China.

Lourens Botha/Alamy

Pent-up desire for abroad travel

Though substantial-net-truly worth vacationers have been active clocking miles within just China’s borders throughout the pandemic, Dragon Path suggests there’s a good deal of pent-up demand from customers for international trips.

Parulis-Cook dinner expects wealthy and experienced vacationers in China to return overseas as shortly as it feels safer, extra manageable and socially satisfactory.

“I would say for high-net-worth tourists, the place journey is part of their way of life, it is really much considerably less about obtaining a newfound desire for domestic journey,” suggests Parulis-Cook.

“But relatively, existing limits make outbound vacation unappealing in many ways. It can be not only inconvenient but also looks terrible and irresponsible.”