Wealthy Chinese still spreading their wings

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Affluent Chinese are continuing to spend big on overseas travel, with a round-the-world trip costing 1.38 million yuan ($212,520) with just 10 vacancies selling out soon after noon on Monday, hours after becoming available.

The price of the tour, which will take place next year, has risen from 500,000 yuan in 2006.

It will run from Jan 3 to March 23 and cover 22 countries and regions. The flights involved will cover 63,223 kilometers — 1.5 times the circumference of the equator.

All the flights will be in business class. Cruises, luxury train rides, private helicopter flights and even a nuclear- powered icebreaker trip will be included in the tour, which is being operated by HHtravel, the high-end branch of travel agency Ctrip.

Zhang Guangrui, honorary director of the Tourism Research Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, "Chinese tourists no longer travel in groups, wear the same hats with a travel agency's logo and jump out of buses at scenic spots to take photos.

"With more and more wealthy Chinese becoming veteran travelers, standard travel products are losing out to tailored and well-planned travel packages," Zhang said.

According to Ctrip, people between 45 and 55 are the main age group for such trips and 41 percent of them are board chairmen or senior executives.

Other agencies are also developing tailor-made, high-class travel packages.

Li Mengran, publicity manager at Beijing Utour International Travel Service, which in 2014 launched Magic Travel to cater to the expanding ranks of wealthy Chinese, said: "Compared with years ago, the market is much more mature. Today, there is more to luxury travel than just being ostentatious."

Li said travel products that offer "rich, exotic experiences" are now popular with high-end travelers, such as the company's Amazon River cruise or an expedition to a Kenyan national wildlife park.

"Tours to the Arctic and Antarctica led by scientists and accompanied by professional photographers are also best-sellers," Li said.

Zhou Chen, 35, from Shanghai, said he prefers to visit little-known places or those with special themes.

"Sightseeing and shopping are not my motives for overseas travel. I like taking adventures, and my next stop is exploring Antarctica," said Zhou, a private company owner.

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