The Chinese city of Shanghai, with a population of around 24 million, is the largest city in China and has more people than the whole of Australia. The number of millionaires in China is roughly estimated to be 150,000, with 8,000 of those worth more than $10 million and 350 people officially classified as billionaires.
So when 3,400 members of the Shanghai Travellers’ Club holds a poll to determine their luxury travel awards for 2013, the tourism industry around the world – and particularly the Asia Pacific – sits up and takes notice.
And the overall winner? Our neighbour across the ditch. Yes, New Zealand was voted the world’s best luxury destination, with Auckland Airport also taking out an award as the world’s best airport.
Other major winners include Gstaad in Switzerland which won the most welcoming city award; United Airlines was votes best airline; and the best hotel in the world was considered to be Le Meurice in Paris where room rates start at about $825 over winter (their ‘low’ period). Croatia did well, scoring two awards for the best luxury lifestyle experience and the best villa rental agency – or maybe it’s just the best villas, considering the beauty of the Adriatic coastline!
In the Asia Pacific category, Australia picked up only one ‘gong’ for the Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast as the best hotel. The other three areas of importance to Shanghai visitors - boutique hotel, golf course and luxury shopping mall – all went to other parts of the Asia Pacific. The ‘base’ room at the Palazzo Versace, known as a Lagoon Room, is around $580 per night. A 3 bedroom condominium with its own private plunge pool is around $2,400 per night.
Whare Kea Lodge and Chalet at Wanaka (near Queenstown), New Zealand won the boutique hotel award. With only four rooms and two ‘master suites’, there are never more than 12 guests so you pay for exclusivity as well as luxury. Rates start at $1,400 per night for two. Less than an hour away at Queenstown is Millbrook Golf Course, judged the best by the Chinese as well as the World’s Best in the 2010, 2011 and 2012 World Travel Awards. Green fees range from $45 to $180 depending on whether you’re an inhouse guest and the time of year, and you can also stay at the Millbrook Resort. Rates vary depending on the season but it’s currently $470 per night for a one bedroom suite with breakfast. The best shopping centre was judged by the Shanghai travellers as being the Paragon Shopping Centre on Singapore’s shopping hub, Orchard Road.
The President of the Shanghai Travellers’ Cub, Pierre Gervois said luxury hotels and travel agencies can benefit greatly from cashed-up Shanghai travellers looking for the “ultimate luxury experience”.
"It's time for the luxury travel industry around the world to realise that their future Chinese guests are not looking for discounted trips anymore and expect a high quality of service in the very best hotels and luxury retailers. They enjoy travelling independently, making their own itineraries and trying more sophisticated luxury lifestyle experiences."
Tourism Australia sees Chinese tourists as the single biggest sector for growth in inbound tourism for at least the next 10 years.