“Rich Chinese who are sick of crowds at home during major holidays have discovered the Maldives, the tropical islands that typically draw jet-setters from Europe looking for an exotic locale,” writes Wei Gu for ‘The Wall Street Journal’.
“The Maldives has become the most desired destination for the Chinese, according to a report from China’s Tourism Bureau. Chinese tourists now dominate travel to the island country, with 103,734 arrivals in the first seven months of 2013, up 66 percent from the same period in 2011, according to its Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture.
Chinese visitor numbers dwarf those from the UK and Italy, which are in second and third place with 60,021 and 53,493 tourists, respectively.
During the recent Golden Week holiday, Zhu Hong, a partner in fashion boutique Shanghai Tang, joined with a group of eight business acquaintances for a private-jet trip to the Indian Ocean islands. The luxury-goods executive is now on his seventh passport after running out of pages on the previous six. Most of his friends, who are Shanghai property developers, haven’t spent as much time abroad, so they were eager to tag along with a well-travelled English speaker.
Unlike many Chinese who often travel with business associates, Mr Zhu normally prefers to spend holidays with his family, but made an exception because his son was training for a tennis tournament.
They stayed in villas on the water in the Maldives, but hardly dipped their toes in the water. They spent most of their time playing a popular Chinese card game called fighting the landlord.
‘Although I wished they have spent a bit more time on the beach, they really saw this game as an engaging intellectual challenge,’ Mr. Zhu said.
Well-off Chinese who are tired of beaches in Southeast Asia are looking for a new destination.
For Chinese passport holders, the Maldives is one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t require the hassle of a visa. Its white sand and lush green water couldn’t be more different than the travel scene in China during Golden Week, one of two weeks during the year when nearly the whole country is on holiday.”