by Floyd Cowan
“Change is one of the themes of ILTM Asia,” said Alison Gilmore, Senior Executive Director, ILTM Portfolio at the Opening Forum of the International Luxury Travel Market on June 1, 2015. “Change, and how fast things change,” she added. “Asia is now second in terms of the number of super rich in the world, surpassing North America. And what do the super rich wish to do? Travel.” Ms Gilmore showed a list of their priorities for travel and how they have changed in recent years. “Out of ordinary experiences is top of their list for what they want to do when they travel, but what hasn’t changed is that when it comes to accommodation Luxury Hotels are still their preference. So, it is not what you do, it is the way you do it.”
The ninth edition of ILTM Asia 2015 took place in Shanghai with a forum that revealed the ongoing evolution of the Chinese luxury traveller today. Ms Gilmore also highlighted that half of the top ten ‘super-rich’ cities in the world are now in Asia . Shaun Rein, (above) Founder and Managing Director of the China Market Research Group and Prof Dr Phil Klaus,(below) Founder and Director of Dr Phil Klaus & Associates Consulting were keynote speakers at the opening that took place at the Portman Ritz Carlton Shanghai from June 1 - 4, 2015.
Mr Rein began his talk about telling about the “best travel experience I’ve ever had,” which was swimming with his 5-month pregnant wife and a pod of dolphins in the Maldives. “This is what consumers are looking for,” he stated. “They want an experience when they go on holidays.
"Today’s Chinese traveller is looking for "more than just a regular holiday" - hotels and travel companies need to curate services specifically for individuals in the Asia market. He observed that current Chinese trends are leaving luxury products behind to focus on luxury experiences. In essence, he summarised: "It’s about doing something different. Chinese and Asian guests now want great, individual experiences that are tailored to them. The new luxury is not buying a branded bag, it’s swimming with dolphins, hiking mountains, visiting far flung amazing places – and then sharing the images on your phone. Wechat and Wechat Moments are now as important a part of the travel experience as anything else.” “We are seeing the end of ‘Copy Cat China,’" Mr Rein continued. “No longer do the consumers want to have a copy of a branded watch or handbag, they want the real thing. Now they can afford the real thing.
“If you are going to have success in the Chinese market you have to tap into the ‘Chinese Dream.’ They want Chinese made products, not just what the West wants. You have to create the dream for the consumer and you have to localize the message. There is more individualism in China now. People are increasingly travelling on their own. Photographing themselves in iconic and beautiful locations is very important to the Chinese traveller. If they can’t afford to travel they will go to a photo shop where they will be photographed in front of images of the Eiffel Tower, or the Pyramids.
“Chinese never like to go to the same place. They will even stay in different hotels each night on their vacations. That way they can get more pictures. If you want to attract Chinese travellers, make your hotel picturesque. They are not so brand loyal."
Prof Dr Phil Klaus advised the hoteliers and travel professionals to “Focus on what you can control. Focus on the customer experience because that is what people are now travelling for - they want memorable experiences they can take home with them.
“Have you heard of the 80/8 gap?” he asked. “Hotels were survey and asked if they thought they were delivering a great customer experience. And 80% responded that they believed they were. Customers were asked the same question - if the hotel was delivering a great experience - and only 8% agreed with that. The 80/8 gap.”
Prof Klaus reminded the audience that they should be measuring the quality of the customer experience. You have to compete for the customers not against your competitors.” He offered insights into ensuring that companies re-focus on customer experience as the key component to their business.
“Eighty percent of the time and money invested from hotel groups goes into the moment up until the purchase, but the experience for customers really comes after the purchase. Post purchase is big business these days. It generates 24% of revenue, but actually over 45% of profits.”
Earlier in the day, two educational seminars further emphasised the rise in spending power from China. The first explored ‘Generation AAA - Asia's new affluent consumers’ and gave an insight into how Aspirational, Ambitious and Affluent 18 to 34 year old Asian people are set to become the number one priority of marketers from all four corners of the world.
The second seminar was entitled ‘Staying Relevant to the Chinese Luxury Traveller in 2015'. Hurun Report’s Rupert Hoogewerf invited guest speakers Forrest Lin and Yu Hui to analyse the latest UNWTO report that revealed how China is now firmly established as the largest outbound market in the world, surpassing the US for the first time this year, with a total expenditure of $102 billion USD.
Following the ILTM Asia Opening Forum, luxury travel experiences from across the world met in one-to-one mutually matched appointments with almost 500 high-end travel agents from 21 countries across Asia, each specialising in creating and planning luxury travel for their high net worth clients.
Laurence Barreau, Director of Business Development, Accor Hotels said: “We have not been back for the last four years, but with 46 percent of all our properties being in Asia-Pacific it is crucial for us. Since four years ago the quality of buyers is totally different – very professional, more concierge, more VIP services and they understand the true meaning of luxury. As a luxury brand we now have to be here as it is very good visibility.”
Ms Gilmore said, “We are thrilled with this year’s ILTM Asia. We have welcomed more than 200 Chinese buyers to the show and you can clearly see the increasing demands from Chinese travellers for experiential journeys to new destinations. We had exhibitors showcasing everything from polar expeditions to African safaris, and from the world’s finest luxury hotel brands to tea plantation retreats.”
ILTM Asia returns to Shanghai from 30 May – 2 June 2016.