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Indian & Chinese travellers ~ By Charmaine Mirza

The verdict is in – the Asian cocoon has been shattered and Chinese and Indian travelers are taking wing! As they pole vault across the globe, they are ruthlessly outstripping their Western counterparts, to become the world’s next travel titans.

The recent investment made by Ctrip of China into MakeMyTrip of India, only lends more credence to this fact. From Iceland to Peru, to Bora Bora – these are the new frontiers for Asia’s travelati. Perennial favourites like South East Asia won’t go away, but Asian travelers are increasingly adventurous to go that extra mile – and spend that extra buck. Everyone wants a piece of the outbound Chinese travel pie – and why not, given that its growth is practically exponential.

The COTRI China Outbound Tourism Research Institute says the “New Chinese Tourists” are travel-savvy, well-educated and mostly under 45 years of age. It is this last point that is the most salient. They will live longer than their octogenarian American and European counterparts to tell the tale! Once upon a time, both the Chinese and Indian traveler was known to shop. Nonstop. Till they dropped. Pent up demand, especially for luxury goods, tilted the scales in their favour.

Today, Chinese travelers account for around 25 percent of the global luxury consumption – and 70 percent of them are below the age of 50. But shopping is no longer the only reason to travel. There is a desire for authenticity in the country that they are traveling to, as opposed to a fake Chinese or Indian bubble that has no cultural texture. So besides offloading bag-loads of cash at LVMH, what else is the Chinese and Indian traveler spending money on? Experiences emerge as top priority – from horseback riding safaris to diving with the sharks, boutique stand-alone properties as opposed to cookie-cutter chains, and within a certain segment of the traveling community – bragging rights But not for all – some of the wealthiest and best travelers are also some of the quietist.

Take a destination like South Africa – known for its safaris, wine lands, and chilled city vibes. According to South African Ministry of Tourism records in 2010, Chinese and Indians were the highest spenders in South Africa, spending more than 25-50 percent more than their European and American counterparts per trip.

While Indians still rely on word of mouth, there is an increasing amount of awareness being generated by print and digital media, events, and social media – the Chinese take digital platforms to a whole new level in travel. Women are treading the road less taken in both countries. Going it alone, with other like-minded women, or simply making the decision for their families – women are by far the bigger influencers when making travel decisions. And how can we fail to mention those young Asian millennials who wants the big fat Indian wedding in an exotic locale, or that uber honeymoon on some exotic isle? Budgets for destination weddings and honeymoons are stratospheric. Informed, educated, and enlightened, gone are the days when you could treat these travelers as a statistic – today each one has an independent mind-set and knows what he or she wants.

The new age Chinese and Indian traveler place a high priority on freedom – time well optimized is much more important than money.

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