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Travel trends: how China's emerging middle classes are changing the luxury-travel market

October 10, 2012

From Harrods in London to Hilton hotels worldwide, a number of companies are introducing new services to attract Chinese travellers.

We often hear about the increasing spending power of the middle classes that are emerging around the world, especially in relation to those in China, but one area where this is really manifesting itself is in luxury travel. The waves of Chinese tourists now travelling the world are reshaping the industry as airlines, hotels and brands scramble to make them feel welcome and offer them the comforts of home.

Here are just a few recent examples of brands that are rolling out the 'red carpet' for these new economic emperors by tailoring their products, services and experiences for high-spending Chinese tourists' tastes and needs:

Harrods launches dedicated Mandarin language app for Chinese shoppers
In June 2012, Harrods launched a Chinese-language smartphone app, offering shoppers functions such as an interactive guide to the London department store, restaurant menus, the latest Harrods news, and details of events taking place within the department store. The app is free to download and was launched alongside Harrods' new Mandarin-language e-commerce site.

British Airways premieres first-class cabins on Shanghai to London flights
British Airways rolled out their new 'next generation' first class cabins on flights between Shanghai's Pudong Airport and London's Heathrow - previously it would have been traditional to launch this service on the London to New York route. The new cabins include seats that convert into 1.98-meter beds, a 15-inch screen to watch in-flight entertainment on, leather-bound desks and the option to invite a fellow passenger to dine with them, using an extra seat.

Airport app available for Chinese travelers
In January 2012 Amsterdam's Schiphol airport released a Chinese version of the Schiphol app, which is available for iPhone and Android. The free app offers information on aspects of the airport such as flights, public transport and product offers, as well as maps of the departure lounges in Mandarin. The app also enables translation of signs in the airport, via a text recognition system using smartphone cameras. A similar app for the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris is also available.

Hilton Huanying
In August 2012 Hilton Hotels partnered with designer Vivienne Tam to offer Chinese guests limited-edition slippers as part of the hotel chain's "Hilton Huanying" (Mandarin for "welcome") programme. The initiative offers tailored assistance for Chinese guests, including in-room facilities such as Chinese tea and Chinese television channels, and also makes a special breakfast buffet available, with congee, dim sum and fried noodles on the menu.

InterContinental launches dedicated Chinese hotels brand
March 2012 saw the InterContinental Hotels Group announce the launch of Hualuxe Hotels & Resorts, a hospitality brand designed to cater specifically to the Chinese market. The name is derived from "Hua" meaning "majestic China" in Mandarin, and "luxe" which represents the brand's luxury positioning. Hualuxe properties will be opened across China from Q4 2013 (and internationally at a later date), with Chinese-inspired designs and tailored facilities such as tea houses, locally inspired menus and late-night noodle bars.

Lola Pedro is a senior industry analyst at London-based trend firm trendwatching.com. One of the world's leading trend firms, it monitors and reports on emerging consumer trends, insights and innovations. You can follow its latest reports on Twitter @trendwatching.

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