Spiritual Awakening: travel as soul-searching
The top destinations in China are increasingly chosen with deeper cultural and spiritual motivations in mind. These destinations are highly diverse, from Buddhist pilgrimages and heritage village walks through to Red tourism hotspots that allow people to immerse themselves in China’s Communist history.
What all these destinations have in common is a kind of tourism that’s less about filling the closet with luxury labels, and more about filling the mind and soul with knowledge. The urban middle class seeks destinations that enable them to trace back fragments of the national genealogy and reconstruct personal narratives from the pieces. Finding a place to reflect on China’s recent history is important to these travelers.
Red Tourism plays a specific role in this regard (see Red City Blue Roofs). It developed quickly amid a crisis of faith after China opened up to the world. Though the motivations behind Red tourism may be genuine, current offerings can be gimmicky with “Red Hotels” and Cultural Revolution paraphernalia being touted – all cheapening the quest for patriotic knowledge.
Buddhist landmarks and heritage villages play a different role in Chinese domestic tourism. These sites allow travellers to transcend recent history, wandering to places untarnished by either the Cultural Revolution or commercialization. However, this is becoming increasingly tricky as many traditional villages are vanishing. Historic sites that open up the village gates risk compromising their way of life in hopes of quickly generating revenue.
Two mobile apps, Day One and Bread Trip, allow users to take stock of their day and reflect upon their lives. Rather than encouraging users to share the myriad experiences they partake in via WeChat; Day One and Bread Trip let users approach their days in a more reflective manner by offering a platform to think about what’s important. This is about creating quality time for self-reflection. Does the appeal of these two apps point towards other opportunities for brands?
- Spiritual and heritage domestic tourism are on the rise in China. How can hotel, tour itineraries and services tap into this?
- How can spiritual development be positioned alongside tangible physical benefits such as yoga training and tranquil resort surroundings? As Chinese increasingly question their values, how might this be reflected in brands’ communications?
- Authenticity is becoming a more important selling point for spiritual and Communist holiday offerings. How can authenticity be preserved without sacrificing the overall quality of an experience?
- Any brand that has a spirit of discovery can flip what the word means, shifting from discovery on the map to discovery of the self. Outside travel, how might this questioning influence the kinds of purchases people make?