Survey of Chinas Affluent Shows Travel is Top Priority

Travel News Asia Tuesday, 14 August 2007

On Monday, MasterCard Worldwide launched the new MasterCard Worldwide Index of Chinas Affluent, offering insights to the well-heeled in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Structured as a twice-yearly index, it surveys and analyzes key features of the spending patterns, lifestyle features and attitudes of Chinas affluent in the first half of the year, and identifies their preferences for top brands across ten product and service sectors in the second half of the year.

The number of affluent consumers in China is growing fast and their market power is being felt far and wide. Domestically, new wealth in mainland Chinas major cities is powering spending, lifestyle choices and mindset changes among affluent consumers, and this has transformed the Chinese market. The affluent of China are also avid overseas travelers, so their spending power will impact the travel and hospitality industries globally as well, said Dr. Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, economic advisor, Asia Pacific, MasterCard Worldwide.

According to the MasterCard Worldwide Index of Chinas Affluent, 92.6% of affluent households spent up to US$10,000 on leisure and recreational activities in 2006. Domestic and overseas travel were cited as the key priorities for spending time and money, ahead of fitness/going to the gym, visiting theme or amusement parks, sports and socializing. In 2006, 43.3% of the affluent traveled at least thrice within mainland China and 30% made at least three overseas trips. 

Hong Kong topped the list of overseas travel destinations, with visits by 85.6% of affluent Chinese. Other top destinations include Macau (51.7%), Thailand (34.8%), Singapore (30.5%) and Japan (18.7%). Destinations further afield like France, Germany and Italy had less than 10% of the affluent travelers visiting them in 2006. They are, however, poised to grow in importance as these are identified as most favored leisure destinations of the future, along with the United States and Australia, said Dr. Hedrick-Wong. 

The strong economic links between China and Hong Kong were evident, with Hong Kong ranking the top destination for business travel among the affluent in the three cities. The second and third ranked destinations of business travelers differed. For the affluent in Beijing, they were the United States (34%) and Singapore (15%); for Shanghais affluent, they were Singapore (31%) and Japan (25%); and the affluent in Guangzhou had Macau (49%) and Thailand (13%) in their top three.

When traveling domestically, almost half of the affluent preferred nature and scenic tours and less than one-quarter preferred visiting cultural and historical sites. Interestingly, 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% and 6% in Shanghai and Guangzhou respectively expressed the same preference. 

Other key insights from the MasterCard Worldwide Index of Chinas Affluent include:

Arts and Culture

- Watching foreign films was the most popular regular leisure activity and interest among the affluent in Beijing (81.5%), Shanghai (86%) and Guangzhou (63.8%). Regular foreign film goers were relatively young, well educated and more likely to be female. 

- Attending popular music concerts was the second ranked leisure activity in Shanghai (57%) and Guangzhou (55.6%), while the affluent in Beijing preferred going to traditional drama and concerts (31.9%). 

- In Shanghai, 27% of the affluent attended foreign operas and concerts on a regular basis in 2006 - this was an activity that is not as popular in both Beijing and Guangzhou.

- In terms of their future plans, 56.7% of the affluent indicated that they will be going to watch more foreign films. About a quarter of them plan to begin collecting arts and antiques, which could clearly become a growing business. 

Work and Leisure

- 79% of the affluent in China seemed to value both work and leisure, and the majority worked between 8-10 hours a day. Shanghais affluent seemed to be able to avoid working long hours only 8% worked 10-12 hours while less than 1% of those surveyed worked beyond 12 hours. 

- The affluent were clearly very family-oriented, as they believed in the importance of a happy family and the desire to spend as much time as possible with their families. On a scale of 1 to 5, the affluent gave an average score of 4.46 to the statement A happy family is most important in life and 4.19 to the statement I spend as much time as possible with my family. However, they also recognized that they needed to sacrifice leisure time with their families for the sake of advancing their careers. The affluent gave a score of 2.61 to the statement I would sacrifice leisure time with my family for my career. 

Charities and the Environment

- The affluent of China appear to be public spirited, as 73.6% supported charities and 38.9% supported environmental protection initiatives. Other charitable acts included blood donation (29.6%), volunteering for social organizations (21.8%) and supporting protection of cultural and heritage sites (8.2%). 

- Looking to the future, 39.5% of the affluent in China will maintain or increase their level of support to charities and environmental protection but the majority seem not to have made up their minds as yet.

The inaugural survey, conducted via face-to-face interviews, involved 900 participants 300 in each of the three cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou whose household income were at least US$16,000 annually. In terms of demographic profile, an overwhelming majority (67.1%) were below 40 years old, and well-educated: 66.9% had at least a Bachelors degree. Of this sample population, 25% were in the premium affluent category, defined as those who earned more than US$50,000 a year.

See other recent news regarding: MasterCard, China, MasterIndex, Survey, Research, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai

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