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Here’s the latest brag for Chinese millennials: a selfie at the North Pole

Sharing pictures of your trips to Bangkok or Hong Kong on Wechat just won’t do: friends have to be impressed, and the Arctic is just the business

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 July, 2017, 9:38pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2017, 5:42am

It appears Thailand and Hong Kong just aren’t fancy enough anymore for China’s ever-higher-spending millennials, according to travel industry experts, who say that increasing numbers are now scrambling in their thousands to more exotic locations, with the Nordic countries highest on many bucket lists.

Some are even willing to venture to the North Pole itself for a bit of time off with a difference.

Observers say they have noticed a rush in the number of selfies -- or self portraits -- being posted on social media sites by young Chinese, from the frozen northern fringes of Europe.

Arctic cruising appears to be popular in the hope of seeing the beauty of the Northern Lights, as has bathing in the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa in Iceland.

“It is interesting to see from our data that more mainland Chinese travellers, particularly youngsters, are flying to Northern Europe for holidays,” said Amy Wei, senior director, Asia-Pacific with Kayak, a global travel search engine.

Russia, Denmark and Sweden registered the fastest growth in terms of Chinese tourist arrivals during the first quarter of this year, according to data released by China Tourism Research Institute and Ctrip, the country’s largest online travel agent.

That is despite the fact that a typical package tour to the Nordic countries can cost you anything from 20,000 yuan (US$2,950) to 40,000 yuan, almost twice the amount of a similar tour to Western Europe.

Chris Zhong, a 26-year-old who works at a financial firm in Beijing, has been saving money for a 10-day trip to Iceland this winter, with plans to visit the Nordic country’s volcanos, hot springs, glaciers – but most importantly, to hunt for the Northern Lights.

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“Some of my friends have already been there last year, and I was so fascinated with the photos they took,” Zhong said.

Unlike his and many others’ parents who grew up navigating through the most turbulent times of the People’s Republic, this new generation of Chinese yuppies – well-to-do young urban dwellers – were being born and raised at a time when the country’s economy was taking off.

Most people in this “privileged generation” are the “only child” in a family savouring care and financial support from their elders, and therefore, they feel more comfortable splurging, according to a report by Fung Business Intelligence (FBI).

Another recent study commissioned by the Singapore Tourism Board showed young Chinese holidaymakers spend more than twice that of their average Asian peers.

Having ticked off the mainstream Asian destinations , they’re now marching towards the extreme and exotic, adds Jacques Penhirin, partner and head of Greater China with London-based consulting firm Oliver Wyman.

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“They want to be different. Nowadays if you share pictures of your trip to Bangkok or Hong Kong on WeChat, not many of your friends will be impressed,” Penhirin said. “But if it is about your adventure in the Arctic, it will create some hype.”

The FBI report adds that individualism is key for young Chinese, to “wow their peers” through flaunting niche brands, limited editions and customised goods and services.

“The post-’80s and ’90s generations, who spend substantial amounts of time on social media platforms, are more likely to be affected by their friends in WeChat Moments and various key opinion leaders on social networks,” the report said.

A recent survey by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Tencent Research Institute, revealed 73 per cent of Chinese born in the ’80s and ’90s check their social media apps such as WeChat and QQ every 15 minutes.