Thursday, 23 July 2015

Chinese Super Travelers Conquer Poles

Two Chinese tourists pose for pictures on Antarctica
When we talk about travel, someone always mentions mainland Chinese tourists. And these days it looks like they have pretty much conquered the entire planet.

More of them -- well the wealthy ones -- are going to far-flung locations like the Arctic and the Antarctic. There were only 99 Chinese tourists who visited the Antarctic in 2005-2006, but the number has risen to 3,042 in 2014-2015, according to the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO).

One of them was Zhang Mengying, a 31-year-old manager from Guangzhou, who had always wanted to visit the Antarctic, the Arctic and the equator.

She took a more than 30-hour flight from Hong Kong to Buenos Aires, transited in Dubai and Rio Janeiro. After a night's rest, she took another flight to the Argentinian town of Ushuaia, the southernmost tip of South America to embark on a week-long cruise of the Antarctic.

"The most impressive thing was the impact it had on my soul," Zhang said. "Seeing the magnificent, breathtaking beautiful scenery and animals around me, I couldn't help thinking that nature was so great that all big and small disputes in our society were meaningless."

The trip also made her more conscious about global warming, but traveling such far distances surely doesn't help the carbon footprint situation...

A pair of penguins captivate some Chinese tourists
Apparently trips to the North and South Poles make up one-third of tours Chinese "super travelers" took last year.

The Hurun Chinese Luxury Traveller report polled 291 such travelers, defining them as those with at least 10 million yuan and had spent at least US$30,000 on travel in the past 12 months.

"The recent popularity of Antarctica with the Chinese luxury traveler shows how much experiential travel is now on the cards," said Hurun Report chairman Rupert Hoogewerf.

Based on travel numbers, to the Antarctic, China is ranked fourth, after the United States, Australia, and the UK.

Charles Wang, in charge of tours to the Antarctic and the Arctic for HH Travel, an upmarket brand for travel website ctrip.com, says, "Over the last two to three years, our Antarctic clients have been doubling by the year.

"One interesting phenomenon is that in the past, only entrepreneurs, gold-collar workers and retirees went to the Antarctic. But now, the tourists are becoming younger," he said.

HH Travel offers two trips: a 12-day trip to the Antarctic Peninsula for almost 200,000 yuan ($32,221), and a more than 20-day trip to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island for 300,000 yuan ($48,331).

Isn't it cold taking wedding photos in the Antarctic?
And how do Chinese tourists behave on these trips?

There have been reports of them charging at groups of penguins, chasing them or getting to close to take pictures. Some even take wedding photos there...

Beijing retiree Yang Yuan, 50, went to the Antarctic in January. "I was stunned by the pure scenery and was moved by the service of my American cruise operator, who spared no effort in protecting the environment," she said.

While it's great to have the Chinese appreciate practically pristine environments, do they understand the importance of protecting them as much as possible, wherever you live?

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