Antarctica the new adventure draw for Chinese tourists
A growing number of Chinese tourists visit the Antarctic to explore natural scenery and experience extreme living conditions. [Photo provided to China Daily]
China has overtaken Australia to become the second biggest source of tourists to the Antarctic.
Over the past decade, the number of Chinese tourists to the area has surged nearly 40 times and is expected to pass 5,000 this year, accounting for 12 percent of all visitors to the destination, according to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators.
US tourists top the list and account for one-third of the total visitors.
Last year, Chinese tourists paid roughly 3,900 visits to the area.
Antarctica is appealing for those who are adventurous, especially the rich.
Over 36 percent of Chinese nouveau riches with average wealth of 22 million yuan ($3.24 million) plan to travel to the region in the next three years, according to Chinese Luxury Traveler 2017, a report jointly produced by the Hurun Research Institute and the International Luxury Travel Market Asia.
Exploring natural scenery and experiencing extreme living conditions are what appeal most to polar travelers, the report says.
"Travel products with challenging elements are high-end travelers' favorites," says Guo Ming, chief operating officer of HHtravel, a luxury travel brand under China's largest online travel agency Ctrip.
The travel agency says that around 500 rich Chinese travelers will visit Antarctica this year, and most of them, between 35 and 50, are in senior management or business positions.
The average spending by these travelers is expected at 250,000 yuan.
Typically, the best season to visit is between November and February, which is summer in the region.
Most travelers take cruises to the region, which mainly follow three routes.
The most common one is around the Antarctic Peninsula, the second one covers the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island and the Antarctic Peninsula, while the last one cuts through the Antarctic Circle.
On the trip, visitors spend most of their time on the ship.
Usually luxury or scientific expedition ships charge more than 100,000 yuan per passenger and offer amenities, lectures and trips to the South Pole, says Guo.
Cheaper options on cruise ships do not allow travelers to set foot on land.
Visiting the Chinese research facility in the region is popular with Chinese visitors, says Guo.
Now, with the increasing popularity of the Antarctic, some travel agencies are planning to expand their services.
"We might even do weddings," says Guo.