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Belmond riding tourism resurgence

By ZHU WENQIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-20 09:09

Nicolas Streff, Belmond's vice-president of strategy and corporate communication. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Belmond, a luxury travel brand under the umbrella of French luxury giant LVMH, said it has seen a growing volume of bookings globally from Chinese guests, and it is bullish on increasingly diversified demand from the world's second-largest economy.

Last year, Belmond saw the number of bookings via Chinese travel agencies jump 15 percent over pre-COVID-19 levels seen in 2019, said Nicolas Streff, Belmond's vice-president of strategy and corporate communication, during a visit to China this week — his first to the country since the pandemic.

Belmond does not operate any hotels in China yet, but its properties worldwide have been patronized by Chinese consumers who have been pursuing high-end and unique experiences, including young couples on honeymoons or holding weddings, and well-to-do family travelers.

Some hotels that have seen a large number of bookings from Chinese travelers include those in Brazil and Italy — as well as safari-takers in Botswana — alongside passengers on the Eastern and Oriental Express, a Belmond train travel product that returned to the rails in Southeast Asia in February.

Belmond said that in the post-pandemic period, it found Chinese travelers stayed longer at hotels, had more diversified requests and sought more unique adventures.

Meanwhile, Belmond has seen more European travelers rediscovering Europe after the pandemic, and saw a surge in its train travel business in Europe.

"We are at the very beginning of the journey for Belmond China. We have launched an official account on WeChat, and a few other projects are in the pipeline; it's our first chapter. We are going to take the time we need to understand better what Chinese travelers expect from a brand like Belmond," Streff said.

He said he believes there are business growth opportunities in China, given the country's rich heritage, culture and traditions, as well as its ability to look forward to the future, which is very contemporary and in line with Belmond. The brand would like to cooperate with more travel agencies and other industry players in China.

For the latest luxury consumption trends, Chinese consumers have indicated a desire for more tailored services and experiential luxury products, as well as digitalized experiences, Streff said.

Chinese travelers have indicated an increasingly growing enthusiasm for traveling abroad, fueled by a steady recovery of international flights and the implementation of visa-free policies for Chinese visitors in multiple countries.

During Spring Festival this year, passenger trips taken abroad have approached levels recorded in the same period of 2019, said the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

This year, the number of outbound tourists is expected to reach 130 million passenger trips, and the inbound tourism market for Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan is expected to achieve a comprehensive recovery, said the China Tourism Academy.

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