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When it comes to travel - are women in charge in China?

Debunking long-held myths, Finn Partners new study suggests that when it comes to travel, in China, women are in charge and they know what they want.

Affluent Chinese female travellers are seeking more meaningful travel experiences. Instead of seeing travel as an avenue for escape, it is now seen as opportunities for enrichment, new learnings, and personal fulfilment. This is one of the findings outlined in China’s Women in Charge, the latest industry report presented by global marketing agency FINN Partners in association with ILTM Asia Pacific.
According to the UN World Tourism Organization, China has reclaimed its position as the top spender on international travel in 2023, with an expenditure of over USD 195 billion, 23% higher than the United States in second place. Moreover, six out of 10 Chinese tourists last year were women. Given their increased spending power and economic status, high-net-value Chinese females will continue to have a profound impact on luxury travel. 
“Debunking the stereotypical image of affluent Chinese females shopping at designer boutiques or dining out with their multi-generational family when travelling, our study reveals affluent Chinese women have a newfound sense of empowerment,” says  Joshua Wang, Associate Vice President of Brand & Market Intelligence of FINN Partners. “Where travel was once a form of conspicuous consumption, it is now a sign of independence”.
 
Determined to make their mark on the industry, 54% of high-valued Chinese females intend to increase their leisure travel over the next three years, while over 60% intend to spend more on travel, including hotels and accommodation. In detailing the ways Chinese women are using their economic and social influence on the travel industry, the comprehensive China’s Women in Charge report reveals five key takeaways:
 
1. Redefining Luxury
Luxury is no longer associated with acquiring material possessions. As the report reveals, the definition of luxury has shifted away from external validation to self-fulfilment. 63% of respondents define luxury as enjoying total privacy or “me time”, while 50% interpret luxury as things or experiences that evoke joy.
2. Travel to Enrich, not Escape
For China’s female luxury tourists, the benefits of travel go beyond escaping daily routines or family obligations. Instead, they view travel as an opportunity to challenge themselves or learn new skills. An overwhelming 99% believe that travel brings profound joy, and over 99% see it as essential to expanding their horizons.
3. The Need for Niche
While most Chinese tourists travel familiar routes, almost 90% of Chinese female travellers are attracted to niche destinations for their natural beauty and landscapes. As an expression of individuality and nonconformity, 66% are drawn to unsung destinations that offer unique local experiences, while 58% are willing to veer off the beaten path to visit destinations of cultural or historical significance.
4. Seeking Solo
While multi-generation travel remains a mainstay of Chinese outbound tourism, there is a growing trend for solo travel, particularly among female travellers. Solo travel illustrates their independence and cultivates a sense of self-empowerment. Regardless of their marital status, over 80% of respondents said that they were equally comfortable travelling on their own as with a spouse or partner. Interestingly, 73% of married respondents said they are likely to increase their solo travel in the coming years. For those with children, 46% plan to travel without or travel less with their children.
   
In response to the growing number of solo tourists, 31% of female travellers prefer accommodation designed specifically for women. 
5. Rising Self-Influence
Women are overwhelmingly in control of travel plans. Empowered by financial autonomy and the rising demand for solo travel, 82% of women say they their opinions matter more than before when arranging future travel. While they may be influenced by partners (60%), this demographic is less likely to be swayed by celebrities and social media influencers (10%) or advertisements (9%).
Older affluent female travellers favour travel advisors, trusting their insights and seeking guidance from experts when curating bespoke travel experiences, while younger affluent female travellers are more open to celebrities, influencers, and travel bloggers for inspiration.
DESCRIBING THE TRIBES
Far from a homogenous cohort, China’s female travellers can be categorised into individual tribes. The study identifies the following five distinct archetypes that reflect the current market forces:
  1. Daring Dragon: Confident, independent, and ambitious, these women prefer solo travel and are likely to be among the first to visit niche destinations or try new experiences.  They value the freedom they have and are willing to splurge on meaningful luxury travel.
  2. Curious Deer:  While keen to explore the world, they may lack the adventurous spirit of the Daring Dragon. Heavily influenced by marketing, social media and mainstream culture, they are quick to identify emerging trends and eager to follow them.
  3. Magnificent Phoenix: Defying expectations, these older travellers are seizing opportunities that were not available to them earlier in life. Rather than travel with family members, they choose to explore the world with friends.  
  1. Mama Tiger: Deeply committed to fostering their children's success, viewing travel as an active learning experience. However, unlike the traditional, self-sacrificing tiger mums, they prioritise self-care, using family travel opportunities to explore and unwind.
  2. Spirited Dolphin: This open-minded, well-educated millennial traveller seeks hedonistic – yet enriching – experiences. Travel is a social activity. While they may eschew the trappings of luxury travel, they will prioritise wellness experiences.  
“This in-depth study offers revealing insights into the changing priorities, spending habits and motivations of China’s upwardly mobile female travellers,” said Jenny Lo, Managing Partner for China of FINN Partners. “As this growing demographic continues to reshape the luxury travel industry, we hope this report will help destinations, hospitality groups, travel brands and companies anticipate the evolving needs of this sought-after market segment.