As tumultuous events unfurl across the continent, have the Chinese well-heeled staved off travels or have they simply moved on to new havens?
The dramatic lobby of the Jean Michel Gathy designed Capella Sanya, one of China's top luxury hotels with extremely high occupancy over the National Day holiday this year
In years past, the advent of 1 Oct would usher in a gold rush for many destinations across Asia. Luxury hotels in the usual resort-centric or mall-packed destinations like Maldives and Hong Kong will command some of the highest ADR (average daily rates) over this period and are usually packed to near full or full occupancy with Chinese guests as they celebrate a week long National Day holiday.
However, the fortunes of hoteliers on these shores would vary largely this year.
From the terrorist bombings in Colombo to the violent protests still shaking Hong Kong, Asian tourism has been rocked by negative eruptions one after another amidst a perceived slowdown in economic growth felt across the world. Many editorials have also reported that Chinese tourists, the single largest contributor to tourism growth in many Asian countries, have since last year withdrawn from their usual haunts across the continent over multiple concerns. Bad infrastructure in tourism hot spots like Bali, a tragedy involving a ferry that sank in Phuket last year and generally the effects of the on-going trade war between US and China and the weakened yuan are just some of the factors contributing to slagging arrival figures of mainland visitors across these countries.
So really, where are the rich Chinese holidaying these days?
For sure, rich Chinese travelers are still returning to some of their usual haunts in Southeast Asia this year, especially since the current misfortunes of Sri Lanka and Hong Kong have actually helped redirect traffic to these spots.
The stunning architecture and views of Alila Villas Uluwatu prove to be a magnet to outbound Chinese tourists
'Compared to last year we actually have significantly more Chinese tourists staying at our resort over the week of 1 Oct this year. It is just fantastic to have them all here.' said Hemal Jain, general manager of Alila Villas Uluwatu, Bali.
Fernando Gibaja, general manager of Capella Singapore, echoed similar sentiments.
'Compared to last year, our occupancy this year grew to near 100% with a significant proportion of Chinese guests checking in from 1 Oct. There is definitely growth from last year, even as our ADR grew higher this year.'
Refined service and a stunning milieu make Capella Singapore a top choice for Chinese holiday makers in Singapore
These are nonetheless just two of Asia's most luxurious and renowned resorts raised on popular destinations with strong fundamentals that have attracted deep-pocketed Chinese for eons now. Beyond popular destinations like Singapore and Bali, Chinese tourists have also in recent years turned their attention back on their home ground, where renewed interests coupled with state-directed patriotism have ramped up domestic visitorship to various destinations.
Over the National Day holidays this year, the island province of Hainan along China's southern coast had received tourism revenue of 7.67 billion yuan ($1.08 billion), reflecting an increase of 11.5 percent year-on-year, the provincial department of culture and tourism reported. Hainan, arguably the only resort island of China, received a total of 4 million visitors during the week-long holiday, up 5.8 percent compared with the same period of last year.
A gleaming Rolls Royce convey top guests to and from Capella Sanya on China's resort island of Hainan
At the newly opened Capella Sanya, raised at the new scenic coast of Haitang Bay near Sanya, considerable efforts were made to welcome guests at this 190-keys property designed by Jean-Michel Gathy and Bill Bensley. A week-long Singapore Food Festival was meticulously presented at the resort's Silk Road Restaurant with daily cocktail presentations for guests staged at its Library Bar in the evening.
Chilli crab station, one of the culinary highlights of the week-long Singapore Food Festival at Capella Sanya's Silk Road Restaurant
'Our efforts was not to drive sales as we have already achieved near 100% occupancy months before October. We just wanted to curate memorable holiday experiences for our guests, many of them families who would appreciate in-house conveniences, so that they would remember their stay here with fondness. As Capella is a Singaporean brand and Chinese people love Singaporean cuisine, we think our F&B promotions during this period would resonate with our guests.' said Yngvar Stray, general manager of Capella Sanya.
A short flight from Hainan is the gourmet capital of Guangzhou, a city renowned for its Cantonese cuisine. Over the past few years, domestic arrivals to the city have increased significantly, as the rich culinary heritage here presents a strong persuasion for in-land tourists visiting this rising destination.
The White Swan Hotel is the gourmet address of Guangzhou with a host of restaurants renowned for the distinctive Chinese flavours they present. Especially famous is the hotel's morning dim sum yum char, a traditional ritual so popular queues form everyday at the crack of dawn.
A Chinese chef preparing Char Siew on the spot at White Swan Hotel Guangzhou
'Guangzhou as a food capital has been increasingly popular for Chinese tourists over the past few years. In the last 5 years Guangzhou was ranked as one of the top destinations for domestic tourism. White Swan Hotel is the first luxury hotel raised in this city and over the past decade we have continued to evolve with the times. Having just emerged from a 5-year long renovation, we have added luxury touches like river cruises to attract more visitors. Over the National Day week this year, we were full almost everyday with most of our guests domestic travelers.' said Derek Lin, director of sales and marketing of White Swan Hotel, Guangzhou.
Delectable dim sums, like this signature Sachima pasty, are served to huge crowds daily at White Swan Hotel Guangzhou
And over in Shanghai, traditionally a 'quiet' spot as the crowds are usually expected to flow out for trips over the Chinese National Day holiday, there is unexpected good news too.
'At the Peninsula Shanghai we have noticed significant increase in occupancy over this year's National Day week. There has been almost double digit growth in figures up from last year and we are happy and proud with this development.' a hotel source cited.
A suite at the Peninsula Shanghai opens to resplendent views of the Bund
With the convenience of China's modern and ever expanding transportation network coupled with a flourishing of luxury hospitality within the mainland, is it even surprising that China's rich and well-heeled are turning their gaze back on home ground when the persuasion is so ample?
This trend will present grave challenges to the development of upscale tourism in many countries, particularly Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, where growth and optimism in the industry has been rising unrelentingly for quite some time now.
Tourist arrivals from China have declined in five out of seven months in 2019
Mainland Chinese tourists have dropped for six consecutive months through July this year
Share of Chinese nationals among total foreign arrivals fell from 19% in early 2017 to 13% in July 2019
Visitors from China, Hong Kong dropped 3% in the first seven months of 2019, compared to a 34% surge in the same period last year
Visitors from China dropped month-on-month in March, May and June
The June decrease in Chinese tourists defied an overall pickup in international visitors
Citing statistics from China Travel Guide, the domestic tourism revenue for China in 2019 is expected to hit CNY 5.6 trillion, up 10% from last year.