A time to fulfill young dreams that went unfulfilled

Updated: Dec 16, 2019 By Xu Lin China Daily Print
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About two-thirds of Chinese aged 40 and above who answered a survey by the online travel agency Ctrip recently, including those living in metropolis and counties, said they traveled three to five times a year.

One third of those in villages and towns said they chose a short-distance road trip, and one third chose to travel to neighboring regions by bus. Those from villages and towns said they traveled twice a year.

In their recent trip, 48.7 percent said they traveled with relatives or friends, 15.1 percent traveled with their spouse and 13.7 percent with their children.

About 75 percent of the respondents said they had grandchildren, but 70 percent said they did not have to look after a grandchild or only need to lend a hand occasionally. About 62 percent of the respondents said they did not live with their children or lived with them only occasionally.

What respondents said most concerned them about travel was safety, the comfort level of accommodation, the pace of an itinerary, an itinerary without shopping, a tour guide's explanations, lengthy periods spent on buses and the availability of Wi-Fi.

More than half said they inquired about bookings or made reservations online by themselves, about 40 percent chose offline travel agencies or consultants, and only a small number said they needed help from their children. For those who were 70 and older, one third said they inquired about reservations online.

The report also said more than 70 percent of the respondents said they relied on recommendations by online travel influencers.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism says Chinese tourists made about 5.54 billion inbound trips last year, 10.8 percent more than in the previous year, and 149.72 million outbound international trips, 14.7 percent more than in the previous year.

By the end of last year China had a population of 249 million aged 60 or above, accounting for 17.9 percent of the population.

"In recent years about 95 percent of Chinese tourists have traveled on their own domestically, the rest being group travelers," says Huang Huang, a research fellow with the China Tourism Academy.

"That means most older tourists are independent ones."

Many of those who have just retired were born in the 1960s, and it is easier for them than for older people to master the kind of internet skills that make independent travel possible, he says.

However, when it comes to overseas trips, many choose to travel in groups because of their lack of foreign-language skills.

The number of older people traveling independently within China will continue to grow, Huang says, largely because of the country's improving infrastructure, including transport.

"Older people have a lot of time up their sleeves to make longer journeys and can opt to travel in slow tourist seasons when things are cheaper.

"It's a misconception to think that older people are loath to spend their money on holidays. The truth is that they are willing to pay as long as there are suitable tour products. Against the backdrop of an aging society the market has great potential."

Some destinations such as Hainan province attract older people eager to spend several months in a place where the weather is warm and there is a good environment, promoting good health, he says.

"Older people are more demanding when it comes to service, and as China's population ages it is important for travel operators to realize that serving these people well will richly reward them.

"Older people have time and money. So long as they are in a safe environment, a quality life is theirs for the taking, one in which they can fulfill the dreams that they never fulfilled when they were young, as they could have through travel."

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