The luxury of travel

The luxury of travel

Swilling wine at a 17th century cellar in central Paris. Boarding an Arctic icebreaker. Trekking the Amazon rainforest. Such high-end tourism activities have long been pastimes of the Western upper class. But they increasingly cater to China's emerging new rich.

Take HHtravel, the Ctrip.com subsidiary focused on high-end tourism. Its "around the world in 80 days" trip departing in February 2014 sold out 15 seconds after the service became available in March 2013.

The travel agency offers the group tour once a year. No more than 10 travelers attend annually. The 2014 trip costs 1.18 million yuan (S$240 000) a person.

The offer's ticket prices keep going up. And the time it takes to sell out keeps going down.

The trip that departed in February 2013 was priced at 1.01 million yuan and sold out in 17 seconds. It took nine minutes to sell out HHtravel's 2011 60-day trip.

"China's luxury tourism market is growing much faster than we expected in quality and quantity," HHtravel's CEO Jack You said.

The market doubles or triples every year, he explained.

But luxury tourism remains a niche market in China.

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