Wei Gu
Wei Gu

Bored with Hong Kong, Milan and Paris, China’s rich are turning to new places, notably in Africa, writes Wei Gu, luxury editor of the Wall Street Journal in Scene Asia. Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia are on the agenda. 60,000 visited Africa in the first half of 2012, a jump of 68%.

Wei Gu:

Many of them first discover Africa during business trips. China’s direct investments in Africa jumped to $15 billion in 2011 from less than $100 million in 2003, and by 2009, China had replaced the U.S. as Africa’s largest trade and investment partner, according to China’s Ministry of Commerce. Compared with Latin America, Africa is closer to home, about 12 hours by plane from Beijing or Shanghai.

Once there, Ms. Shi says, Africa’s upscale safari camps and private jets play to Chinese tastes for luxury tourism, as does its focus on nature and scenery over historic attractions.

“We go out during sunrise and sunset to watch animals. After a few days your eyes get trained and it becomes easy to spot them,” she says. Once, she made a few seconds of eye contact with a lion as her jeep passed by — “but I wasn’t afraid at all,” she says. “It is their world. We’re just observers.”

On their first trip, Ms. Shi and her family were a rare enough sight in Africa that hoteliers told them about previous Chinese visitors. While in Namibia last year, however, she discovered that a friend was nearby — via Weixin, a Chinese social-networking app.

More in WSJ Scene Asia.

Wei Gu is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need her at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

The China Weekly Hangout will discuss this Thursday the new gateways for Chinese to Europe, with a focus on Cyprus. Read our announcement here, or register for this event here. 

What to expect from the China Weekly Hangout in the year of the snake? Paul Fox from Hong Kong and Fons Tuinstra, president of the China Speakers Bureau, discuss the possible agenda for the coming months.

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