The Chinese traveller: A new business opportunity for the spa industry?


In our previous post, we spent some time talking about medical tourism and the opportunities it offers for the spa industry. Although this week’s topic is slightly different, it also connects our field with the travel and hotel industries. In this article, we take a look at the trends and business opportunities offered by Chinese outbound travellers who, according to the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI), are set to transform their country into “the largest source market for global tourism before 2020.”

We will be nurturing this discussion with some of the valuable insights provided by the article Preferences and Attitudes of Chinese Outbound Travelers: The Hotel Industry Welcomes a Growing Market Segment published by the Cornell University Report and written by Peng Liu, PH.D., Qingqing Lin, Lingqiang Zhou, Ph.D., and Raj Chandnani. Let’s see why we think our industry can also take advantage of this important trend within the travel industry.


Features and preferences of the Chinese traveller

The Chinese market is relatively young. According to COTRI, “70 percent of all outbound trips from mainland China only happened within the past six years,” something tightly related to the dramatic increase of personal wealth in the country and the significant expansion of the Chinese middle class during the last decade.

Considering the above, the Chinese market offers lots of possibilities towards the future. While today’s travellers favour group trips and nearby-Pacific destinations, future Chinese travellers may be more willing to explore on their own destinations outside Asia, mainly across Europe and North America.

In spite of that, the Chinese traveller has a set of values and interests that will probably remain the same. Shopping focused tourism, for instance, is and will be one of the most popular travel preferences among Chinese travellers. According to the Cornell University Report, “the culture of gift giving motivates Chinese consumers to allocate substantial amount of their travel budget on shopping.” Because of that, Chinese travellers will probably continue favouring urban experiences over resorts or country-related destinations.

In terms of amenities, culture and time efficiency are the two most important variables for Chinese travellers. That is exactly why tea and coffee making facilities, internet and wifi, and dedicated storage are the three most popular amenities among Chinese travellers.

Recreational amenities, however, are also appealing to the Chinese market. “Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, for instance, have identified recreational amenities as a competitive point of differentiation, with indoor swimming pools and efficient à la carte spa treatments, including Chinese modalities, foot treatments, and salon services to attract Chinese travelers.”

Finally, it is important to keep in mind the travel segments of the Chinese market. According to the Cornell University Report, “families with young children, retired couples, and singles will see the greatest growth.”


Seizing the opportunity

Different hotel chains across the world are already targeting in a very specific way the needs of the Chinese market. For instance, Hilton’s Huanying program includes Mandarin-speaking team members, amenities such as Chinese teas and tea kettles, and a rich breakfast that includes dim sum, fried rice and noodles.

We believe the spa industry can also take advantage of the business opportunities that have been created by Chinese outbound travellers. Spas should cater for these clients and have something in their spa offering adapted to these travellers’ needs. Considering the popularity of shopping focused tourism among Chinese travellers, spas could offer, for example, international branded products, firm massages and whitening facial treatments. They could also include in their treatment menus services that are popular among Chinese travellers. We believe there are many options spas could use to attract Chinese travellers. It is up to us to seize this opportunity.

By Sonal

Sonal Uberoi creates and delivers smarter spas around the world. Spas and hotel groups hire Sonal to help them design, set up and manage their wellness businesses. Her finance background and worldwide operations experience in the spa, wellness and hospitality sectors make Sonal the go-to expert for business optimisation solutions. Connect with Sonal on LinkedIn

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