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New must-do for Chinese tourists: French wine tour
Both Michelin and French hotels are diverting Chinese tourists from Paris to the vineyards
It’s no secret that affluent Chinese tourists have become the backbone of the travel industry in many countries.
This is especially true for France -- as Paris is the most dreamed-about European destination for Chinese travelers.
But they have climbed the Eiffel Tower, tackled luxury shopping on Boulevard Haussmann and done all the Chinese restaurants in Chinatown. What is left for them to do in France?
Well, wine tours might be the next big thing to get those visitors from the East to shell out big bucks.
The Michelin French Wine Tour guide
French travel publisher Michelin has just released a Chinese guide book: "French Wine Tour" (法国葡萄酒之旅).
Having published 13 guide books in simplified Chinese since 2006 -- most of them are of Western countries -- this is Michelin’s first-ever theme tour guide in Chinese.
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The Green Guide gives detailed information on the most well-known French vineyards and their wines, from Bordeaux and Burgundy to Champagne and Cognac.
“We provide travel guides based on readers’ demand and according to the traveling habits and lifestyle of Chinese people,” noted Miao Xiangbo (苗祥波), director of Michelin Guide China Maps and Traveling.
“The book shows the other side of France and helps tourists to enjoy French wine culture in depth.”
The Michelin wine guide, which will be available soon online and in Xinhua book stores nationwide, has arrived just in time. China officially overtook Germany and the United Kingdom to become the biggest wine importer of Bordeaux last September.
Tailored chateau tours
According to French Wine News, Chinese buyers spent US$311 million on Bordeaux wine between July 2010 and June 2011. So it's no wonder that the region is welcoming Chinese tourists with open arms.
Grand Hotel de Bordeaux and Spa, a luxury resort located in the main shopping and pedestrian area of the city of Bordeaux, sent a delegation to Shanghai and Beijing in early November to promote their tailored wine tours and to learn about the booming market.
Without any previous marketing effort, five percent of the 150-room hotel's guests came from China in 2010. The company’s general manager Yan Vacher estimated the number will be 11 percent for this year, and somewhere between 15-20 percent for 2012.
“So when you got this result, you’ve got to understand who are your clients -- you’ve got to understand why they come to Bordeaux and what are their needs,” said Vacher.
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Grand Hotel de Bordeaux and Spa arranges tailored private vineyard visits for its guests. Tourists can request meals or picnics with the owners or even a helicopter tour over different vineyards.
The cost of a wine tour package starts from US$67. And since the tours' launch, the hotel has witnessed very positive feedback from Chinese customers.
Vacher also revealed that the hotel plans to open a Chinese restaurant next year to specifically cater to Chinese tourists.
Thomas Duroux, managing director of Chateau Palmer, said that 30 percent of visitors to his vineyard have been Chinese in the past six months, and they were looking for high-end wines with prestigious brands.
“The number of Chinese people in Bordeaux has increased tremendously -- of course, we received a lot of professionals, but we also see a lot of tourists,” added Duroux, who estimated a fast growth in the number of visiting tourists in the near future.
Yan Vacher also anticipated wine tour to be the next trend among Chinese tourists to France because of the interest in learning about wine in China, and the fact that “Chinese travelers have just come to discover the region of Bordeaux.”
Interesting stats and facts
Chinese tourism in France is rising by more than 15 percent a year.
In 2010, 550,000 Chinese tourists visited France, shelling out about US$890 million, reported The New York Times.
The average Chinese tourist to France is male, about 45 and lives in a large Chinese city. He stays in large, cheaper hotels outside Paris with tour groups and eats preplanned meals in Chinese restaurants.
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