The recent terrorist attacks in Europe led to a 24 percent global Chinese tax-free spending decline in March as sales in Asia grew significantly, according to a new report by Global Blue.
The tax-free shopping provider’s newly released “Globe Shopper Report: China Edition” finds that this drop comes after the growth rate slowed to 11 percent in January and only 5 percent in February.
The terrorist attacks in Paris in November and Brussels in March were a significant factor in this drop, according to the report, which says that 56 percent of respondents in a survey of 5,000 regular Chinese travelers said that safety was an important factor in choosing a destination.
While Europe cooled, Asia saw a much stronger Chinese tax-free spending growth rate of 32 percent for the first quarter of this year, with Chinese shopping hotspot Japan seeing an especially significant growth rate of 50 percent. Chinese tourists made 54 percent of all tax-free purchases in the APAC region.
In addition, the report notes that a 58 percent growth rate in global Chinese tax-free spending for 2015 set a high bar for comparison, and March’s double-digit decline was in comparison to a 122 percent year-on-year growth rate for March 2015.
For 2016, the report predicts that the months of May and October will be “crucial” for retailers hoping to see a rebound in Chinese spending growth as Chinese travelers head abroad for the Labor Day and Golden Week holidays. Its survey finds that Asia will remain the most popular area to travel, as 73 percent of those surveyed are planning trips within the region. South Korea was listed as the most popular destination as 26 percent of all respondents said they would plan a trip there, followed by Japan at 23 percent. As Chinese tourists cancel trips to Japan in the wake of the Kyushu earthquake, it is yet to be seen whether these numbers will change.
Chinese shoppers haven’t completely shunned Europe, either. The report finds that 41 percent of respondents plan to visit Europe sometime this year, with France still the number one European destination preference at 16 percent. This is followed by Germany (8 percent), Italy (6 percent), and the UK (6 percent).
China’s recent currency fluctuations are expected to have a “minimal” effect on Chinese travel spending as long as the yuan doesn’t fall significantly. The survey found that 46 percent of travelers would reconsider their destination and 47 percent would reduce their shopping budget due to a weaker yuan, but would be most likely to do so only if the exchange rate dropped to 0.130 CNY/EUR.
To attract Chinese shoppers, the report finds it’s most important that destinations have a good selection of shopping malls and retail parks, followed by famous international brand stores and products that are priced lower than they are in China. The report also lists the services in demand among traveling Chinese shoppers, stating that tax-free shopping comes in at number one with 56 percent of respondents listing it, followed by UnionPay (55 percent), sales in home currency (46 percent), Chinese-speaking staff (39 percent), and in-store Wi-Fi (26 percent).
When working to attract Chinese visitors, destinations have the best chance of reaching them through travel, shopping, and fashion websites, says the report, which says this was listed by 43 percent as a main research point. Equally important was word-of-mouth from friends and family, followed by social media from a brand’s site (38 percent) and friends’ pages (36 percent).