ITB 2024 Special Reporting
Insight Report: Six trends on China's Next-Gen luxury travel preferences
Monday, 22nd November 2021
Source : Marriott International Inc.

Report focuses on six areas of preference as touchpoints for hoteliers to curate distinctive destination experiences for luxury Chinese travelers.

The Ritz-Carlton, part of Marriott Bonvoy's portfolio of 30 extraordinary hotel brands, recently released its Next-Gen Luxury Travel Preferences Insight Report, which provides timely, in-depth insights into the changing preferences of the next generation[1] of luxury travelers in China.

The report identifies six main areas that will allow luxury hotels to improve, innovate and tailor their services for next-gen travelers. These areas are: a new focus on experiences over sightseeing, authentic local culinary experiences as selling points, high tech combined with the human factor, the rise of 'bleisure' or the combination of business and leisure, the growing importance of social spaces in hotels, and the growing demand for sustainable travel.

The report was published as part of the brand's recent "A Gift Like No Other" campaign in Asia Pacific.

Over the past 18 months[2], business at The Ritz-Carlton hotels in Greater China has been steadily recovering, with a significant increase in the numbers of leisure travel guests, with some properties seeing a nearly 80% rise in this category. The Ritz-Carlton is also attracting younger guests, with the next-gen segment making up over 50% of check-ins at hotels. These guests account for 56% of occupancies at The Ritz-Carlton, Nanjing, and 55% at The Ritz-Carlton, Shenzhen.

To better understand and serve this changing guest demographic, The Ritz-Carlton joined forces with JIEMIAN, China's influential digital media outlet specializing in financial and business news, to publish a study examining the preferences of this segment of younger luxury travelers.

1. A Shift Of Focus From Sightseeing To Authentic Local Experiences

"Experiences" have become the catchword for leisure travel. Today's younger luxury travelers expect exceptional services and amenities as a given. What has become more relevant is the in-depth appreciation of destinations that results from a sense of connection with local people and their culture. Social media "check-ins" are a hot trend, pointing to the importance of the sociocultural "third space". This third space refers to social spaces, as differentiated from the home and workplace.

2. A Winning Combination: Unique Localized Experiences With Enjoyable Activities And Dining

Next-gen luxury travelers in China are seeking greater meanings through an in-depth understanding the places they visit. The perception of travel is no longer a brief sightseeing tour in a group; it involves a deeper exploration of local cultures and cuisines at a destination. Travelers want to experience the characteristics of a city or destination through its food. Hotel restaurants can meet this demand by offering a combination of quality and locally relevant cuisine. The trend of families traveling as a group of three generations is also a popular one. In the luxury segment, families traveling with kids seek fun, educational activities close to nature, both within the hotel and its surroundings. Families will also appreciate personalized services that cater for all three generations – older grandparents, parents and children.

3. High Tech, High Touch

The next generation of luxury travelers is looking forward to the future of tech-enabled travel. High-tech is a prerequisite, where intelligent services and experiences enhance the overall quality of the trip. Although technology has brought convenience and personalized experiences to the next level, next-gen luxury travelers still believe that face-to-face communications and services between people are essential, and they place a high value on personal encounters. Luxury hotels will need to find a balance between "High Tech", defined as the convenience and cool factor of technology, and "High Touch", which is the human element – face-to-face communications and personalized touches – in their offerings.

4. With Remote Work Becoming The Norm, "Bleisure" Emerges As a New Form Of Travel

The pandemic has given rise to the adoption of remote work, which in turn has created a new form of travel: "bleisure", or the combination of business and leisure. In other words, many people can get their work done from anywhere in the world, even while they are traveling or vacationing. This trend is robust with younger consumers, who enjoy combining work with leisure. Thus the "hotel as a destination" concept which focuses on local experiences without having to leave the hotel is fast gaining popularity with younger consumers.

5. Communal, "See and Be Seen" Social Spaces And Value-Added Experiences: A Hotel Is No Longer Just A Place To Stay

High-value travelers are interested in a hotel's supplementary experiences over and above a good night's sleep. Luxury hotels could catch the attention of younger consumers through their distinctive identities and offerings, and the recognition of the venue as a destination in itself. The new generation of guests perceive the value of the venue-as-a-scene during their stay. They appreciate art exhibitions, brand crossover launches, fine dining experience or yoga sessions on the hotel terrace, all of which can become the reason why they choose a particular hotel.

6. Sustainable Travel Is No Longer Just An Idea, But An Imperative

The next generation of luxury travelers are keenly aware of eco-friendly travel practices, the importance of conservation and personal wellbeing. The awareness climate change, green energy, the reduction of carbon footprints as well as the importance of holistic practices has now evolved into tangible, practicable actions on the part of the consumer as much as the hospitality industry. This generation of guests now actively prefer the availability of wellbeing and sustainable options when they travel.

The report also features in-depth interviews with 12 people of influence across travel, fashion, design, business, and culture sectors in China.

  • Alex Wang – Consumer Investor
  • Cao Difei – TV host, Columnist, Honorary Ambassador of Ecofé, and Slow Food Ambassador
  • Jin Liyin – Professor, Head of Department of Marketing, School of Management, Fudan University
  • Jin Naili – Director of Ariadne Consulting Institute
  • Li Daode – Architect
  • Liu Chun – Assistant President of JIEMIAN
  • Liu Jiayu – New Media Artist
  • Liu Junyan – Head of Brand Communication, MAIA ACTIVE
  • Xiao Xue – Fashion and Lifestyle Opinion Leader, Writer
  • Zhang Na – Independent Designer, Founder of Reclothing Bank
  • Christian Humbert – General Manager, The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong
  • Rainer J. Burkle – Area Vice President, Luxury, Greater China, Marriott International

"The new generation of savvy, sophisticated guests have become forerunners in the next iteration of luxury travel in China," said Rainer J. Burkle, Area Vice President, Luxury, Greater China, Marriott International. "These valuable insights on emerging trends will allow The Ritz-Carlton to tailor our services and offerings in order to curate personalized experiences that go above and beyond the expectations of our guests."

The Next-Gen Luxury Travel Preferences Insight Report is available on the JIEMIAN website and app. Click here for the full report in Chinese or English.

[1] The Next Generation comprises Millennials (born 1986-1995), Generation Z (born 1996-2003), and Generation Alpha (born after 2003)

[2] April 2020 to September 2021

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