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Generation T: Travel redefines Chinese women
Hit the road, Jacqueline. Cashed-up and consumed by wanderlust, "Les Girls" are heading overseas
Stephanie Feng’s (冯佳艺) first job as a passenger photographer took her aboard the 90,000-ton cruise liner Serenade of the Seas. It’s not a normal job for a journalism graduate but Feng reckons her six months' working around the eastern Caribbean was a life-defining experience.
“I watched ‘Where the hell is Matt?’ in 2008 and my friends were joking that we could make a ‘Where the hell is Stephanie?’ video, and that’s what got me into applying for the position,” explains the 28-year-old graduate of Newcastle University in England, who was born to a traditional Shanghainese family.
“The trip completely changed the angle I viewed the world with. I became more curious about the unknown and I came to realize that traveling is the most important hobby in my life.”
Feng, who has traveled to Germany, Thailand and 17 other countries, is typical of "Generation T" -- 20- and 30-something Chinese women whose life values are shifting away from their mothers' and grandmothers' (who may well have never ventured beyond the confines of their home town) thanks to the opportunities of outbound travel.
These independent women are setting their sights on destinations featuring both natural landscapes and shopping -- Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul are high on their bucketlist -- and they usually prefer traveling in small groups with close female friends.
Generation T are more independent, less eager to settle down and more willing to challenge traditions.
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Feng wishes to share her travel knowledge and demonstrate how travel can reshape modern-day Chinese women's lives.
She and seven other travel-savvy women from all over China co-founded She Loves Traveling (SLT), an online women’s travel community.
Travel changes ‘new women’
“Well-traveled ‘new women’ in China are more self-conscious, open-minded and more tolerant compared to tradition women, because they’ve seen and know that happiness can mean differently in different places,” says Joyce Yang (杨乔), 30, co-founder and managing director of SLT.
“This is different to many traditional Chinese women, who think that happiness means finding a reliable husband."
Traveling brings more changes to Asian women, compared to the Western counterpart, because the culture is more traditional here.
-- Joyce Yang, co-founder and managing director of She Loves Traveling
SLT's website (www.shelovestraveling.co) is expected to go live at the end of July. It is billed China’s first travel community created just for women.
“Our goal is to [use travel] to boost the confidence and life wellness of Chinese-speaking women,” says Yang, who hails from Taiwan and has just finished a round-the-world trip at the end of 2011.
“Traveling brings more changes to Asian women, compared to the Western counterpart, because the culture is more traditional here."
The website will provide tips and recommendations on each stage of travel for women because female travelers have different expectations and requirements out of a trip, according to Yang. And they often need more safety advice.
“For example, whenever my husband and I step into a hotel room, my first reaction is to test how comfortable the bed is,” said Yang. “My husband always immediately checks what beverages there are in the mini bar and what sports channels the hotel has.”
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The team plans to publish travel books, and organize gatherings for members. They’re also looking at setting up a physical space where like-minded ladies can drop by just for a chat.
Safety net for female travelers
Stacy Sun (孙琛), a 28-year-old Shanghainese, knows about the launch of SLT through friends and is keen to see the site.
“The site is likely to provide more gender-specific information for traveling women, and the users can also make friends with those who share the same interest and ambition,” says Sun, who works for a law firm and takes about four outbound trips each year.
Yang points out that the brand is to serve not just travelers from China, but all Mandarin-speaking women around the world.
“Our dream is to build a network of SLT around the world so whenever female travelers come across difficulties in their journey and are looking for support -- for example, they break up with their boyfriend while traveling -- they could contact our call centers for assistance,” she says.
“They’ll be almost like embassies but for female travelers.”
Women’s tourism on the rise
The founding of SLT comes amid China’s fast travel market segmentation.
Le Méridien Xiamen has blocked out a dedicated floor for female guests since its opening in 2010. The 32 women-only rooms and suites carry more beauty and sanitary produces, women’s magazines and female-fit bath robes.
China has also witnessed the opening of a 10-room, 35-bed female-only hostel, Xi'an Sunflower Hostel (西安小花客栈).
Although still in its early stages, Chinese women’s tourism is described by Qunar as a sub-market “with unlimited business opportunities.”
The Chinese travel site released a report early this year on China’s women’s tourism market based on its 59.6 million unique visitors every month.
It stated that approximately 30 percent of Chinese women spent more than 20 percent of their life expenses on travel and 98 percent of the women Qunar talked to have traveled in 2011.
Some 60 percent of Chinese women travel up to three times a year while another 23 percent book three to five trips annually.
Qunar’s senior business director Wang Jing (王京) says more and more personalized travel products will appear with the rise of the purchase power of Chinese women travelers.
“The [Chinese] women’s tourism market is sure to attract more and more attention,” says Wang.
Contact She Loves Traveling via email@example.com.