“In-depth travel” is the most popular request for Chinese travellers taking customised tours to Europe

Kane Xu, CEO of Ctrip Customized Travel

In more news from the Ctrip Customized Travel Summit that recently finished in Budapest, the report that showed that European travel saw a 130% year-on-year increase between 2016 and 2017 has also shown that ‘in-depth travel’ was the most popular type of customised travel. 

The report, copublished by Ctrip and the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI) analysed the key search terms featured in the demands for European customized travel. The most-frequent term was “in-depth travel” – the most important feature of customized travel. Other popular terms were “slow pace”, “leisure travel”, “private” and “niche”.

Furthermore, customised tour travelers will be meticulous about the requirements of all aspects of their travel, such as appropriate flight duration, exclusive car service, available Chinese guides and clean accommodation, the report noted.

Customized tour is a travel form able to satisfy the personalized demands of most. Therefore, many guests with specialised needs will propose: local cuisine, more opportunities to see beautiful architecture, visits to local small towns and wedding photography.

Building on from the idea that a ‘slow pace’ of travel is gaining popularity among global millennial travellers, European customised tours average about 12 days in length and involve visiting just 1-2 countries. This stands in contrast to more traditional package-tour travellers, who visit three or more countries in 10-12 days.

As is obvious this allows for visitors to spend more time in each country visited – this is common among younger travellers who wish to get a more ‘authentic’ local experience.

Peak months: January and July

There is a clear month-on-month growth rate from May to June, while the number of European customised tours peaked in July. Demand in countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Greece, and Italy rose significantly, as the countries entered their regular prime travel season.

The Spring Festival holiday period in China ushers in another wave of European tours in January. The demand in northern European countries, such as Finland and Sweden, gradually increases in this month, too. Activities such as staying in the Glass House Hotel in Santa Claus Village, chasing the Aurora Borealis, going to a hot spring and skiing are widely regarded as popular for a honeymoon.

Most popular tourist sites

Seeing the shooting locations of films or TV programmes, visiting prestigious schools or universities and proposing in front of landmarks are three most popular activities among European customised tour travelers. Compared to classic sightseeing, European customised tour travelers tend to choose niche spots, go on walking tours in featured towns and choose events that reflect their personal tastes.

Such tourists may also travel just to attend a certain event, such as music festivals taking place on islands such as Ibiza in Spain each year attracts many Chinese tourists.

Study tours are also distinctive activities in the field of European customised travel. The demand for such customised packages is concentrated in the summer months of July and August. Old, famous universities such as Cambridge and Oxford are destinations for many tourists with children.

Looking to experience the atmosphere of a prestigious university and getting to know the local policies for international students is becoming a mainstream activity. For example, the study tours focused on Italian architectural and art design gives tourists an insight into Italian design industry, as well as the chance to talk with top Italian professors face-to-face.

Most popular themes

Top 10 themes in customised travel to Europe Finland, Switzerland, Iceland and other Nordic countries are the main destinations for customised honeymoon tours. Customised tour travelers often search for individual demands such as seeking out the Aurora Borealis, going to hot springs, skiing and staying in glass houses.

Southern European countries perceived to be romantic – such as Italy, Portugal, Greece and Spain – see large amounts of customised demands such as “travel and get married”, “marriage proposal”, and “wedding photography”.

“Gourmet food” is a big demand among customised tours to Europe. 50% of demand lists stipulate their requirements for eating. The three favorite European countries for customised tour foodies are France, Italy and Spain.

Chinese foodies have been known to book French and Italian gourmet tours, featuring aspects such as: Paris Michelin restaurants, Dijon oysters and wine, Zürich cheese fondue, Milanese steak, Venice cuttlefish pasta, Florentine T-Bone Steak and Roman Ice Cream.

Source markets

Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou are the top three largest tourism source markets in China . The remainder of the top ten are Chengdu, Shenzhen, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Xian, Xiamen, and Qingdao. The top three is clearly dominated by first-tier cities, accounting for 50% of the total market.

Second-tier cities, represented by Wuhan, Chengdu, Nanjing and Hangzhou, have increased their consuming capacity. The proportion of repeat visitors to Europe has increased, with more people choosing customised tours.


In terms of increase in demand, the top ten fastest-growing cities in customised tour in Europe are Harbin, Wuhan, Fuzhou, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Shenzhen, Shenyang, Guangzhou, Kunming and Qingdao. With the popularity of customised tours, second and third-tier cities are seeing a rapid increase in growth.

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