In recent memory, Chinese tourists have become some of the world’s most avid international shoppers. But this summer — though tourists from China will still be hitting American and European cities in record numbers — they won't be spending quite as much in foreign retail destinations. Instead, according to reports in the Financial Times, they will be allocating their vacation dollars to sightseeing and dining out.
Two things are pushing this trend. International travel has become a more prevalent practice for middle-class Chinese consumers, as opposed to highly affluent consumers (who are statistically more likely to use vacations as a commerce opportunity). Also, the lure of lower prices in foreign lands has apparently diminished some.
According to a survey jointly done by IPSOS and Hotels.com, the number of Chinese tourists sighting shopping as a primary motivator for their trip abroad has fallen to about 1/3.
“For the first time in history, shopping is no longer the prime reason for [Chinese] international travel,” said Abhiram Chowdhry, Asia-Pacific vice-president for Hotels.com. “The cliché of Chinese travelers only being shoppers is reducing. It seems like they want more experiential travel.”
Oliver Wyman, in its latest study of Chinese consumer habits abroad, found that though average spend on an overseas vacation increased to about $3,000, shopping expenditure per trip specifically has been on the decline.
“It’s become mainstream to the point that there’s lots of different Chinese travelers, as you have with other countries,” said Hunter Williams, a Shanghai-based partner at Oliver Wyman, adding: “This should be taken as a wake-up call. You need to be prepared for a Chinese traveler that is not only interested in shopping . . . They want experiences.”
While there aren't any official figures on the exact number of Chinese tourists traveling abroad, the Chinese government confirms that Chinese nationals took 122M overseas trips, including to Hong Kong and Macau. That represents an annual increase of about 4 percent. Chinese tourists mostly travel in Asia — however, long trips to Europe and the U.S. have become more common. As of last year, 25 percent of Chinese tourists went to Europe and 12 percent ventured to the U.S., according to Hotels.com.
And while they are shopping less, they are not spending less, according to research. While shopping figures are down for Chinese tourists, a Financial Times study indicates that Chinese consumers are spending more on lodging, food and entertainment.