What is the quintessential New York experience in the eyes of Chinese luxury travelers? How does it differ between men and women, and for millennials?
To answer these questions, we spoke with independent tour operators who organize tours of the city for HNWI (high-net-worth individuals) from mainland China. These are the four things they’re looking for.
Even affluent Chinese travelers like to get a bargain. But in New York City, shopping is often less of a priority because only American brands such as Kate Spade and Tory Burch are cheaper than they can find them elsewhere. Instead, what attracts them most is the experience of shopping in an exclusively NYC style that will impress their friends on WeChat. To accomplish this, they prefer to interact with local people as much as possible.
“VIP luxury shoppers are regularly invited to stores’ grand openings in China, [so] when they travel abroad, they expect a similar ‘rolling out the red carpet’ kind of experience,” said Serena Huang, founder of YOLO luxury travel, a New York-based boutique travel agency.
In order to maximize their time in New York, they expect to shop with the help of a personal assistant and a mandarin-speaking translator.
A good personal shopper can intuit a client’s style immediately, and knows the equivalent sizing across different brands, making the experience seamlessly efficient. They are also knowledgeable about local fashion trends, and can offer an expert eye on some more sophisticated luxury goods that travelers won’t come across in China.
According to Huang, Chinese women usually shop for themselves and family, whereas men like to buy business gifts. This different shopping preference reflects the type of events they wish to attend in store.
In partnership with a third party, usually a financial institution like Morgan Stanley or Wells Fargo, tour operators often collaborate with luxury retailers to host networking events. They bring high-net-worth clients from China, mostly men interested in making career connections with New York-based professionals. In such settings, the store and the goods displayed function as an ice-breaker, and an opportunity to display their purchasing power. It’s a chance to shop their way to the top.
In contrast, a lot of female travelers’ main ambition is to arrange a meaningful and educational tour for their kids. They want luxury stores to create tailor-made programs to entertain the kids while they shop, such as etiquette classes for mingling with Western elites.
For younger affluent Chinese travelers, itineraries are influenced by media and KOLs. They like to visit independent stores around Soho and art galleries in Chelsea during the day, and sip cocktails in a speakeasy in the East Village at night. Local, hidden gems excite them.
One tour operator told us, for example, that they will take clients to a secret lingerie museum inside the Victoria's Secret's store on Fifth Avenue, which opened in May this year. Its latest exhibit features a 3 million angels’ bra, Gigi Hadid’s bodysuit, and Stella Maxwell’s crystal-encrusted one-piece from last year’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in Paris. A lingerie expert will also introduce the fashion show’s history and host a pajama party, where she offers tips on wearing bras the correct way.
Other experiences on young travelers' bucket list include Tiffany's newly opened Blue Box Cafe, which offers them a chance to channel their inner Audrey Hepburn.