As the highest-spending group of outbound travelers in the world, Chinese tourists are a key source of revenue for retailers across the globe thanks in large part to their well-known love for buying luxury items abroad. According to a new outbound report on shopping and tourism recently released by the UNWTO, this growing group is diversifying as more young Chinese travelers head abroad in search of special experiences, but retailers shouldn’t worry about these new interests—shopping still tops their list of things to spend money on.
According to the report, Chinese tourists spent US$129 billion on international tourism, a 26 percent increase from the previous year. The UNWTO predicts that Chinese tourists will take over 100 million overseas trips by 2015, a number set to double to 200 million by 2020.
As more countries join the Chinese government’s list of “approved destinations,” retailers from these destinations are gaining an unprecedented opportunity to cash in on their growing numbers. The report states that Chinese middle-class travelers are highly interested in “status-related” destinations, which means that Europe currently tops the Chinese travel wish list. “Chinese travelers perceive Europe as a sophisticated and refined destination,” it says.
The report also finds that Chinese travelers’ number one travel spending activity remains shopping, with an estimate that 30 percent of total Chinese trip expenditure is dedicated to retail purchases. Middle-class travelers are very price-conscious and spend big on shopping in order to take advantage of tariff-free prices of European goods.
While shopping is still a key activity for Chinese travelers, retailers will have to take more than a one-size-fits-all approach with their Chinese clients as tastes diversify. The UNWTO divides Chinese tourists into main groups: the “traditionalists,” the “wenyi (文艺, English: ‘literature and art’) tribe,” and the “hedonists.” Traditionalists make up the largest segment, and are motivated by icons, brands, and recognition. These travelers are very shopping-oriented, and often buy many cheap luxury items to bring back home as gifts and souvenirs. Meanwhile, the wenyi tribe is more heavily influenced by culture and experiences, and travels for “the pursuit of freedom, quality of life, experience, uniqueness, and self-realization.” These consumers still love to shop, but “want to buy products that tell a story, and mostly focus on design items.” Finally, the “hedonists” are all about pleasure, with a travel itinerary focused on shopping, eating, and having fun. This relatively young consumer group wants to be stylish, so their buying centers around “original luxury goods, and the choice of the destination is dictated by shopping facilities.”
In addition to obtaining the Chinese government’s “approved destination status,” there are several things locations can do to attract more Chinese tourists and boost retail sales. First of all, the ease of applying for a tourist visa is vital to upping Chinese tourist numbers, and many countries are loosening restrictions. Furthermore, preparedness for Chinese visitors in the form of adequate signage and showing “understanding” of what makes “Chinese guests feel welcome” will help to encourage satisfaction and return visits.