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No more bus tours for China's rich millennials — they're seeing the world on their own

Alexandra Bacon   

No more bus tours for China's rich millennials — they're seeing the world on their own
  • Rich Chinese millennials are opting for solo travel, the latest status symbol.
  • It counters the organized group-tour travel of their parent's generation.

Rich millennials in China are experiencing world travel in a very different way from their parents.

The older generation was the first group to benefit from the country opening up to world tourism, but the industry was still in its infancy. Therefore, organized tour groups were the go-to option for those with the money to spend on this new middle-class pursuit.

These tours offered a safer and more accessible way to explore new destinations, Elisa Harca, CEO of consultancy firm Red Ant Asia, previously told Business Insider.

But younger generations — millennials and Gen Z — have grown up in a world that's much more open to them. For those who can afford the luxury, they spent their youth traveling with their parents and studying abroad.

And it's meant that now they want to travel alone or in smaller groups of friends, as it emerges as the latest luxury status symbol for younger people in China.

New technology has made solo travel much less daunting

"They're a lot more used to being tourists,'' Jack Porteous of China-focused consultancy firm Tong Global told Business Insider.

Many people have a more advanced level of English, and the availability of real-time translation apps means traveling further afield to places in Europe is much less daunting for this younger cohort.

The rise of social media platforms for travel has also spurred the accessibility of solo travel. Experts pointed to the Xiaohongshu, China's Instagram-like app, as one of the main resources for travel recommendations.

Luxury travelers, especially those in their 20s and 30s, are relying on Xiaohongshu to make decisions on booking hotels, flights, and restaurants when they travel, Sally Maier-Yip, founder of China-focused communications consultancy 11K Consulting, told BI.

In 2022, the app boasted an estimated 200 million monthly users, mainly young women, seeking product recommendations, lifestyle advice, and how-to videos.

Porteous explained that the site is full of content about how to "live like a local" in different destinations worldwide.

This allows people to find more authentic travel recommendations for themselves rather than leaning on travel experts.

Traveling for deep personal fulfillment

It's not just about ticking off bucket-list destinations; well-traveled younger people are looking for deeper meaning in the experiences they're spending their money on.

"Immersive travel experiences spanning four to eight days are gaining traction," Maier-Yip, told BI. She said this indicates a growing appetite for trips centered on fulfillment and personal happiness.

"Travel has also taken on a new role as a form of self-exploration and definition," Porteous of Tong Global added.

Visiting unique, off-the-beaten-track locations is the next frontier for those looking for luxurious travel experiences.

Porteous points to the rise of glamping in China and holidays focussed on outdoor activities, such as horse riding in Inner Mongolia, as examples of these new immersive experiences.

China's grueling work culture means younger people are looking for a break

There's a growing trend of young people taking early-career gaps, loudly celebrating quitting their jobs to go traveling, he added.

Chinese employers are known for their notorious "996" work culture, which demands workers clock in from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week.

But younger generations are becoming more inclined to reject this.

Viral acts of rebellion such as wearing "gross clothes" to the office, or just giving up and "lying flat" have all been ways that they've been going against the status quo.

Taking time off work to travel solo is one example of how younger Chinese people have a different view of their life trajectory versus their parent's generation.

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