2011 Trend Watch: How Far Will Countries Go To Court Chinese Spenders?

Britain, Korea, Japan Look To Accommodate China’s Big Shoppers

France is a popular destination for Chinese outbound tourists, particularly the super-rich, who see trips to France as quasi-pilgrimages

France is a popular destination for Chinese outbound tourists, particularly the super-rich, who see trips to France as quasi-pilgrimages

Chinese tourists are not only traveling more, but are widely perceived to be big spenders while traveling. As many observers have noted, this profligacy often comes down to the lower taxes and the larger variety of goods available to Chinese tourist-shoppers abroad versus their home market. With countries around the world angling to capture more of the lucrative outbound Chinese tourist market in 2011, we’re already seeing signs that European and Asian tourist destinations will take their outreach efforts to the next level in coming months.

“Peking Pound”

Nowhere has this been more pronounced than the United Kingdom, where Chinese tourists have become some of the largest spenders on the London high street. Last week, the British media coined the phrase “Peking Pound” to describe the extravagant spending of Chinese tourists, with the British Daily Mail reporting that Chinese tourist-shoppers were expected to spend a billion pounds on luxury goods at holiday sales. The Daily Mail article described many stores on the West End as having hired Mandarin-speaking assistants to cater to Chinese tourists, adding that Selfridges now accepts China UnionPay cards, the only domestic credit card currently issued by Chinese banks.

In the frenzy of the post-Christmas sales in London, onlookers described the scene as the “great mall of China.” Taking China’s steep import taxes into account, luxury goods purchased in Britain are 20-30 percent cheaper than they are domestically. Considering London’s status as an acknowledged fashion capital, it has become a natural shopping destination for Chinese tourists.

Korea Grand Sale

On Monday, January 10, the “Visit Korea Year Committee” will kick off a 50-day shopping event for tourists in Korea’s major cities, with airports and duty-free operators — as well as 14,000 businesses and stores — participating. Shopping locales Lotte Duty Free, Shilla, Donghwa and Paradise are taking part in the effort to promote Korea as a top shopping destination during the promotion, which runs through February 28. Aiming to attract 10 million foreign tourists and generate $14 billion in income, it is no surprise that the promotion is scheduled during Lunar New Year — not only a time of increased spending, but a holiday that is sure to see more tourists traveling.

The Visit Korea Year website, while not explicitly marketing to China, offers versions in Korean, English, Japanese, and in both traditional and simplified Mandarin, reflecting the fact that in 2010, tourists from China accounted for the second-largest number of visitors by country, with 38.6 percent of inbound visitors Japanese, followed by 22.2 percent Chinese.

Chinese tourists in Japan

Chinese tourists in Japan

Japan’s Multiple Entry Visa

Beginning this summer, Japan expects to start issuing multiple-entry visas to individual Chinese visitors, undoubtedly in an effort to entice the growing number of tourist-shoppers from China. This will be a follow-up move to last July’s initiatives, in which Tokyo cut the income requirement for tourist visas and increased the number of consulates in China accepting visa applicants from three to seven. The multiple-entry visa will allow Chinese tourists to enter Japan as many times as they like before the visa expires.

Jing Daily has previously reported on the diplomatic spat regarding the collision between a Chinese fishing vessel and Japanese Coast Guard ships last September and its effect on Chinese tourists, who began to head to South Korea instead. In an effort to improve ties and ease tensions between the two countries and to attract China’s big spenders, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan is also said to be considering a diplomatic visit. With the strength of the purchasing power of Chinese tourists, as well as the large market that China represents, Japan’s government looks to be mending fences to improve relations.

2011 Trend Watch: As Chinese tourists become increasingly renowned for lavish overseas spending, more countries will find ways to better attract and accommodate them. Taiwan looks to be next: in a move to warm up relations, it is set to lift its ban on solo Chinese tourists, allowing them to stay in Taiwan for up to 15 days.

Article by Felice Jiang

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