Chinese travellers are going their own way Featured

Tourists from China are moving away from group tours and towards self-planned itineraries
by 14 April 2011

For those of us who live in a big city, longing to get away once in a while is inevitable. In the past, when the Chinese thought of travelling, they’d conjure up images of a big group following a guide holding a little flag. Where to go, where to stop, what to see, what to eat, where to stay – everything was organized right down to the smallest detail. All the traveller had to do was to follow. Travelling this way might be convenient, but it does seem a bit banal.

Since the start of the millennium, especially these past few years, more and more people choose to travel on their own. They want to plan their own itinerary, setting off on an “independent” or "self-guided" tour. Even tour operators and travel agencies are responding to the phenomenon by offering more personalised services. Though independent travel takes a lot of work – from buying the ticket and booking the hotel, to doing research on the destination and deciding on an itinerary – the trip will prove to be rewarding. You can even choose whom you want to travel with, which is not an option when touring with a bus-full of people. What’s better than the feeling of being your own boss?

With better communications, infrastructure, and the increase of economic power, independent travellers have become common. The traditional guidebook, once our indispensable companion on the road, is quickly becoming history with the emergence of the Internet as a more dynamic travel tool with up-to-date information. Websites such as Luxos’ luxury portal provide a practical city guide with blogs and forums where travellers can comment, respond and post photos from their trips. Information regarding the destination – from geography to the local specialty dishes – becomes an active voice of experience.

The Internet allows people to focus on their personal interests when planning their trips. This can lead us on exciting journeys, from China’s Lugu Lake Scenic Area, the picturesque Li River, to the mountains of Shangri-la. The possibilities are endless when we explore the least beaten paths. In fact, independent travellers were amongst the first to discover some of the destinations that have become popular in recent years.

What is truly unique about independent travels is its dynamism. Since self-sufficient travellers have such diverse backgrounds and interests, they often branch out to more unique styles of exploration. Today, the very definition of travelling, “to leave home and take in sights,” is not so clear-cut anymore.
To each his own, you can “personalise” your sights as a unique individual. Seeing new things from different perspectives and projecting yourself into an experience are key considerations. I believe that independent travel, with all its possibilities, will only become more interesting as time goes on.

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