Travel proves a hit among well-heeled

By Wang Zhenghua (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-08-14 07:15

SHANGHAI: The country's wealthiest residents are increasingly willing to loosen the purse strings when it comes to sightseeing, according to the results of a survey released yesterday.

According to the Index of China's Affluent, a survey carried out by MasterCard Worldwide, roughly 93 percent of the nation's affluent households spent as much as $10,000 on leisure and recreational activities last year, four times more than the per capita annual income of Shanghai in 2006.

Nine-hundred respondents with annual incomes ranging from $16,000 to $50,000 said domestic and overseas travel were key priorities when it came to spending time and money.

This was followed by going to the gym, visiting theme or amusement parks, sports and socializing.

"The number of affluent consumers in China is growing fast, and their market power is being felt far and wide," said Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, an economic advisor with MasterCard Worldwide.

"Domestically, new wealth in major cities on the mainland is powering spending, lifestyle choices and mindset changes among affluent consumers, and this has transformed the Chinese market," he added. "The affluent of China are also avid overseas travelers, so their spending power will impact the travel and hospitality industries globally, as well."

In the survey, which covered Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, 43 percent of the respondents said they had traveled at least three times on the Chinese mainland last year, while 30 percent made at least three overseas trips.

Hong Kong was the most popular overseas travel destination - 85.6 percent of China's rich went there last year. Other destinations, including France, Germany and Italy, attracted a smaller share of travelers in 2006, but Yuwa said these places should expect to see more Chinese travelers, as should the United States and Australia.

On the domestic front, almost half of the affluent said they preferred nature and scenic tours, while less than a quarter said they preferred visiting cultural and historical sites.

The patterns for domestic travel were very different between the three cities. Close to one-third of the affluent in Beijing favored beach resorts, while only 5.5 percent and 6 percent in Shanghai and Guangzhou respectively expressed the same preference.

(China Daily 08/14/2007 page5)

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