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Flights of fancy

[ 2014-07-09 10:10] 来源:中国日报网     字号 [] [] []  
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Waking up inside an enormous tent in the Sahara Desert in Morocco, you are unlikely to miss any of the luxuries that come with a top-end hotel suite. Private bodyguards patrol the area with guns to ensure that you aren't attacked by wild animals. This reflects a new trend in luxury travel.

Chinese people with deep pockets are increasingly enjoying such kinds of trips around the world, with many preferring to visit places that are less frequented by others.

Popular destinations include the Arctic and Antarctic poles, that could cost between 120,000 and 250,000 yuan ($20,000-40,100) per person, and Tanzania and Kenya in East Africa where wild animals are in abundance.

"Those who prefer luxury tours are very rich and tired of ordinary destinations. They like the Sahara Desert tours," says Cao Xia, a senior tour adviser to Abercrombie & Kent China, an arm of a Western global high-end luxury tour operator. She recently accompanied a group of Chinese tourists to Morocco.

According to Cao, such tours aren't just about extravagant accommodation and food. People get to know about local cultures and lifestyles in a way that feels more authentic.

Yang Mengyue, a publicity manager for the Chinese marketing consultancy HHtravel.com, says high-end customers demand "self-fulfillment", be it through leisurely trips or vigorous adventure travel. HHtravel.com is a high-end brand of Ctrip.com, a major travel website in China.

Other than big foreign companies that focus on luxury trips, there are many domestic tour operators and online agencies that offer them as well.

Yang says these customers are mostly multimillionaires aged between 40 and 55, many of whom are company executives, private entrepreneurs and celebrities - some even with their own aircraft.

HHtravel.com is offering an 80-day luxury tour around the world starting from February, at 1.25 million yuan per person, covering dozens of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

About 10 seats were purchased immediately after the company announced the offer.

"Customers of luxury tours prefer privacy and small groups," Yang says.

According to Chen Chen, marketing manager of Abercrombie & Kent China, VIP services include taking customers to the world's iconic tourist sites before or after the regular hours for visitors so as to avoid large crowds. Local experts on history or art are likely to accompany guests who opt for VIP services to tourist sites and introduce them to cultures.

Chen says that scholars with degrees in art will talk about the exhibits in museums with tourists and professional photographers will show them how to take pictures in the Antarctic region.

Guests can also dine with locals and learn to make local handicraft such as Italian puppets, she adds.

"Customized trips help visitors realize their dreams. Some guests, for instance, want to see the slums in Jordan and only an experienced guide can assure their safety," Chen says.

But not everyone in the business offers such custom-made tours.

"Our standard itineraries are well-designed after market research. They have various themes and can meet the demands of high-end customers," Yang says of HHtravel.com's policy.

Despite the growing trend in luxury tourism, Chen says that more and more Chinese customers are needed to make the business boom. Some Chinese middle-class people are also joining in.

Wang Jingkun, 41, spent less than 200,000 yuan on her cruise to the Antarctic in February.

Now she plans to take another customized trip to catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis near the North Pole.

Although such tours are expensive, Wang says that she doesn't mind paying because of the service.

She cites an example of a trip to Egypt, where riots had broken out on the streets. The local guides took good care of her and asked the police to accompany her through sensitive areas, she says.

In 2012, Wang quit her job as a management staffer at a corporation in Beijing, to travel in China and abroad. She has been unemployed since then, spending her savings on travel.

According to Xu Ting, deputy secretary-general of the Beijing-based International Tourism Studies Association, with people's living standards rising, the demand for luxury and customized trips is also increasing.

"Luxury trips are more than high consumption. It's about humanity and detailed services, from consultations until the end of the tour. Agencies should also have emergency plans," Xu says.

By Xu Lin ( China Daily )





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(译者 catherine珊 编辑 丹妮)


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