Switzerland Capturing Wealthy Chinese Tourists, And Investors In It For The Long Run
China’s recent economic boom has inevitably seen a sharp rise in the number of wealthy people choosing to spend their newfound wealth traveling abroad. The sight of large groups of Chinese tourists wearing color-coordinated hats, gathering around a megaphone- and flag-toting tour guide, has become all too familiar in many countries in Europe and beyond. However, not all Chinese tourists are following the typical trend of quick-stop tours to snap a few photos and pick up a souvenir or two before being whisked off to the next destination.
Switzerland has always proven a popular destination for Chinese tourists, as it is often associated with quality goods, whether they be chocolate, luxury watches, or knives. This concept of Swiss quality has resonated with many wealthy Chinese, who are now looking at long-term investments in many aspects of the country, ranging from boarding schools to banks, creating in the process a brand new elite market — and one that has captured the attention of several cutting-edge businesspeople.
Xu Junhua is one of four founding members of Swissna, a company established in April 2012 that caters to the various needs of wealthy Chinese interested in investing in, rather than simply traveling to, Switzerland. As Xu told Jing Daily, “We offer services ranging from private banking and real estate to immigration advice, luxury tourism and even anti-aging programs.”
Switzerland is well-known in China as a world leader in anti-aging and beauty treatments, all of which are in high demand from China’s wealthy elite. (Who have spent millions in countries like South Korea in recent years on so-called “Meditel” packages.) Xu mentioned that Swissna offers something totally unique, in the sense that tourists are able to fully customize their visits to Switzerland and enjoy a truly niche experience. “We organise trips to many cities across the country, where tourists can indulge in typical high-end leisure activities,” Xu said. “There’s skiing, power shopping, trips to hot springs and golf.”
Given many wealthy Chinese’s obsession with luxury and quality living, Xu believes it is no surprise that Switzerland offers a large market.
Beyond leisure and health activities, Xu also indicated that Switzerland’s most famous industries are enticing many rich Chinese to pull out their checkbooks. Added Xu, “There are people who are looking at building ski resorts, with one guy even wanting to get involved with the manufacturing of a certain Swiss chocolate brand and eventually export the product back to China.”
Commenting on the acclimatization of Chinese businessmen in the Swiss market — one very different from China — Xu emphasized that it was one of the many services that Swissna offers its clients. “We have partnerships on all sides which ensure not only tourists, but also businessmen, are given smooth operations here,” Xu noted, adding, “Three of the four partners of Swissna are in fact financial advisors and know the business workings of the country better than anyone.”
Given the growing presence of Chinese tourists and businesspeople in international environments, many industries have had to adapt in order to cater to the new market, and Switzerland is no different. Xu told us, “There are certain hotels, restaurants and luxury goods shops that have around 80-90 percent Chinese speaking staff, so in many ways these Chinese tourists are being made to feel as comfortable and at home as possible. Switzerland has had to reinvent itself to accommodate for China.”
When asked whether China’s economic slowdown gives him restless nights regarding the future of his industry, Xu remains upbeat. “Every year we see new rich people emerge from China, so the demand will never run out,” Xu says. But does he believe Beijing’s recent clampdowns on lavish government expenditure, and its attempted revival of traditional non-materialistic ethics, could provide a headache for such businesses in the future? Xu doesn’t think so. “I believe that future generations of these rich folks will also strive for the same luxuries their parents and grandparents had,” Xu holds. “If a child was educated abroad in a top-quality boarding school, they’re sure to want their kids to have the same.”
Amid a seemingly countless array of holiday companies that arrange smooth passage for Chinese tourists during their stays in European countries like Switzerland, it seems that Swissna has taken the initiative by also seeking out the market of wealthy Chinese looking to make solid future investments in the country. Whether it be buying property, looking at immigration or simply wanting to plan a unique high-end holiday experience, Swissna’s services perhaps reflect what we can expect more of from China’s wealthy elite in the near future.