There’s a major unfilled niche in China’s outbound tourism boom

Travel experiences that go beyond the norm, and into the realm of adventure or group bonding are finding appeal among mainland tourists seeking to escape the city

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 October, 2016, 6:17pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 October, 2016, 10:55pm

A luxury travel agency that boasts an anniversary dinner in Cambodia’s Angkor Wat among its tailor-made travel achievements is looking to expand to mainland China - but it won’t be trying to cater to shoppers.

United Kingdom-based Jacada Travel launched its “explorer lounge” in Hong Kong last year, where “travel designers” help would-be holiday makers create adventures, from a rare tiger experience in India, to a Golden Retriever-led tour in Patagonia.

The company is translating its website into Chinese as part of plans to target the China market at the end of this year, founder and managing director Alex Malcolm said.

People have this tendency to group the whole of China together, and say Chinese all like shopping and casinos

“People have this tendency to group the whole of China together, and say Chinese all like shopping and casinos,” he told the Post at Jacada’s Hong Kong office.

“But that’s the mass market, and I guess what we’re going for is just our niche who want to go to interesting destinations and have real connections and experiences.”

The Hong Kong office was set up with the idea of reaching out to local and mainland adventure seekers.

Among Hong Kong clients, Malcolm said he’s seen a particular interest in trips to South Africa and Iceland.

“I think these markets can be quite adventurous. I think they’re looking for those bucket list destinations,” Malcolm said.

Since Jacada Travel launched in 2008 he’s also seen a growing trend of “wholesome” travel, where people strive to have experiences together rather than aiming towards an aesthetically pleasing Instagram shot.

It was about trying to “connect on a human basis rather than connect on a wifi basis,” Malcolm said.

“We’re linking you in with these interesting people and places and our connections with you.

“Real human connections is something you can’t buy on the internet,” he added.

About 133 million Chinese are expected to make outbound tourism trips this year, a rise of 11.5 per cent on 2015, according to a report released last month by the China Tourism Academy and the financial services company UnionPay International.

Chinese tourists spent US$104.5 billion overseas in 2015, up 16.6 per cent on the prior year.