Attracting Chinese shoppers to New York City’s luxury flagship stores

At the 5th avenue Cartier Flagship store, a Chinese customer in Gucci flip flops, Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt and a Niuyue Mag Cap on his head is buying three gold “Tank” watches incrusted with diamonds “One for me, one for my wife, and one for my daughter, who is studying in Chicago”, he says with a big smile. “I’m also platinum member of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club”, he added ,“that gives me a VIP welcome in most of luxury stores here”.
Cultural training is imperative for New York-based luxury flagship store employees to build trust among affluent Chinese tourists and creating a custom experience for this group of travelers will help marketers gain brand loyalists, experts say.
Many luxury brands are focusing marketing efforts to Chinese consumers back at home, but with a rising wave of Chinese tourists coming to New York, it is important that brands cater to this group. Luxury marketers need to be more proactive to reach Chinese travelers by training employees and partnering with high-end travel services.
“New York flagships should be more aggressive in inviting and giving a fabulous experience to Chinese tourists,” said Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, New York. “The city seems to be behind in attracting and nurturing Chinese consumers.
“New York has been slow to appeal to Chinese tourists, even though there is such as large Chinese population in the city,” he said.
“Retailers need to create personal, emotional connections with these consumers by nurturing them and caring for them, which will create a lasting impression.”
In the capital cities of European countries, luxury flagship stores get 50 percent of their value from Chinese tourists, per Mr. Pedraza.
Europeans have been smart in the way they care for Chinese tourists, who tend to buy in volume on shopping trips.
Meanwhile, the United States has not been as open to tourists in its efforts and may have suffered, given the economic times.

Advertisement Tower - Gervois Hotel Rating May 2017 featuring Pierre GervoisAccording to Pierre Gervois, author of “How U.S. Retail, Travel and Hospitality Industries Can Attract Affluent Chinese Tourists”, “The U.S. travel and tourism industry has understood the financial power of the new generation of affluent Chinese inbound tourists, and how it can give a boost to the country’s economy, but needs to improve the way Chinese visitors are welcomed and understand better the intercultural issues of marketing”
In the past, European tourists were key for New York-based retailers, but tourism from Europe is on the decline. Travelers from China are now the largest group of tourists in New York, and Indian tourists are another group to look out for in the next decade.
To get Chinese consumers into New York flagship stores, luxury brands should partner with high-end hotels, tour operators and restaurants to keep the brand top-of-mind, according to Mr. Pedraza.
But the marketing strategy for luxury retailers also starts in China, when affluent Chinese travelers are planning their NYC shopping trip, and use Chinese social media networks such as Niuyue Mag, with 200,000 registered members, giving shopping tips and specific insights to Chinese shoppers.
Also airports, limos and hotel concierges play a major role in influencing affluent Chinese tourists since these are all stops on the journey to New York.

“There is no question that luxury brands should be using print and their Web sites to attract tourists to their New York stores by showing the experience that they can expect,” Mr. Pedraza said.
“The travel industry is also a huge opportunity,” he said. “Luxury brands have to romance travel agents to get on the map within the travel industry.”
“Brands need to do a better job at creating these partnerships with travel-oriented brands.”
Once in-store, affluent Chinese tourists will need to be made comfortable. To do so, New York flagship stores should start by training their staff on the Chinese culture and traditions.
Stores should have, at minimum, Mandarin-speaking employees and may also want to train in other dialects from Asia.
“Employees should be well-educated in relationship building, not just to process tourist transactions, but to develop longtime relationships with the brand,” Mr. Pedraza said.
“There are luxury brand stores in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong, so these tourist transactions are not a one-shot deal,” he said. “They can also be relationship building.”
Luxury retailers should be aware of the Chinese holiday calendar to understand buying habits during certain holidays and target Chinese consumers for in-store gift buying, per Ken Morris, principal at Boston Retail Partners, Boston.
The holiday calendar may also hint at the time when Chinese tourists are more likely to travel.
Training sales associates on cultural greetings can quickly build trust with incoming tourists and encourage foot traffic.
Stores should also offer in-store shipping options so that Chinese consumers can ship items home. This will eliminate the need to pay sales tax and leave the customer more room in their luggage, per Mr. Morris.
“Not only is the size of the luxury market in China significant, but it continues to grow with a burgeoning middle class aspiring to own luxury brands to demonstrate their wealth,” Mr. Morris said.
“New York is a unique, international city where tourists can readily find bilingual associates,” he said. “By focusing on hiring multilingual staff, a retailer has the opportunity to offer exceptional customer service and make the customer comfortable shopping in the store.”
Source: Luxury Daily

In the first half of 2012, +46% of visa applications processed at U.S. Embassy for Chinese leisure travelers

President Barack Obama’s initiative to boost international tourism has pushed the US government to process a record 1 million visa applications from China so far during fiscal 2012.
“This extraordinary accomplishment represents visa processing growth of almost 43 percent over the same period last fiscal year, when we had processed just over 675,000 visa applications in China,” the State Department announced Thursday.
The US federal government’s fiscal year begins Oct 1 and ends Sept 30, so the department was referring to visa-processing totals through the end of the third quarter on June 30. As China Daily reported in April, through the first half of fiscal 2012, the State Department had processed 453,000 visa applications from Chinese citizens, up 46 percent from the first six months of fiscal 2011.
To reach the 1 million figure through the current fiscal year’s first nine months, department staff at the US Embassy in Beijing and the four consulates across China processed at least 547,000 visa applications from Chinese citizens in the three months from April 1 through June 30 – reflecting especially high demand for the busy summer travel season.
The State Department credited the opening of more windows for interviews, expansion of consular office space and better-maintained waiting areas for visa processing at the Beijing embassy and its consulates in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenyang. Furthermore, it said the average waiting time for a visa interview has been reduced to about a week from the several months it used to take to get an appointment.
According to Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus and the author of the Book How U.S. Retail, Travel and Hospitality Industries Can Attract Affluent Chinese Tourists “This initiative is the direct result of a very successful lobbying campaign organized by the retail, travel, and hospitality industries that were the first-hand witnesses of the incredible purchasing power of Chinese tourists in the last few years. Roger Dow (president of the United States Travel Association) and Joe McInerney (president of the American Hotel & Lodging Association) have done a fantastic job of explaining to Washington the vital necessity to the American economy of finding ways to increase the number of Chinese leisure visitors.”
Dong Xue, a senior at Purdue University in Indiana, has just returned from China and it took her only a week to get a visa, even at the peak of summer. As a repeat traveler to the US, Dong was able to use a bank drop-off service to renew her visa. Without having to go for a personal interview, she submitted her paperwork through the bank and got her visa in five business days.
“As the Chengdu consulate (nearest to her hometown of Chongqing) was very busy then, their colleagues in Guangzhou processed my application,” Dong told China Daily. “It’s so fast. Usually it will take two weeks.”
The Obama administration, pointing out the value of travel and tourism to the US economy, introduced in January a strategy to make the United States the top destination for foreign visitors. More than 1 million jobs could be created over the next decade if the US increases its share of the international travel market, Obama has said.
In 2011, about 1.18 million Chinese visited the United States and the number is expected to reach 2 million in 2015, according to the National Tourism Administration of China.

Wealthy Chinese seeking overseas residency

There is one Chinese export product that is seemingly unstoppable at the moment – millionaires. Porsche-driving Louie Huang lives in Shanghai, having made his money – a lot of money – in property.
He is having a 200-room villa built here and owns properties in at least five other cities around the world. But while his business interests remain in China, he has also stumped up the sizeable investment needed to buy himself residency rights in Singapore. He says it is for a number of reasons, in particular the opportunity it might bring his future family. But he admits that for many of his wealthy friends it is a sense of insecurity which is leading them to ponder a life outside China.
“Most of them think I’ve got so much money here but one day maybe the government will change the policies and take it all back,” he says.  There is mounting evidence to show that China’s super-rich are heading for the exit.
At a seminar in a plush office suite with a spectacular view of Shanghai, Chinese entrepreneurs with at least half a million dollars to spare are being encouraged to invest in the US economy.
The EB-5 visa scheme is an investment-for-residency programme, handing out green cards as long as the investment can be shown to have created at least 10 jobs.
In 2006 Chinese nationals were granted just 63 visas under the scheme. Last year the figure had leapt to more than 2,408 and this year it is already above the 3,700 mark. It means a tidal wave of Chinese money is currently pouring into US infrastructure projects.
The scheme is open to any nationality but Chinese investors now make up 75% of the total.
China’s rigid and opaque political system is perhaps one reason for the wealth-drain, particularly in a year in which there is due to be a changing of the guard at the very top of the Communist Party.
There are certainly lifestyle concerns too. Like Louie Huang the wealthy are often seeking cleaner air and a better education for their children. Enjoying the best things in life also matters. According to the Shanghai Travelers’ Club, a luxury travel club for the Chinese Elite, traveling abroad is a strong sign of social status, and acquiring a property in cities like New York, Las Vegas or London is the ultimate symbol of success in life for the wealthy Chinese.
Add to that the fears that China’s decade-long economic boom may be losing steam and it is perhaps not surprising that China’s rich are on the run. The EB-5 data is not the only evidence. A survey last year of almost 1,000 Chinese dollar millionaires found 60% considering moving overseas.
China is now one of Australia’s biggest sources of migrants with figures released for 2011 showing that it had overtaken the UK for the first time.
And American estate agents have been reporting a big jump this year in the number of high-value home buyers from mainland China and Hong Kong.
The party is far from over for China’s wealthy, including Louie Huang – who has just opened a brand new nightclub. As his patrons sit around tables containing a dozen or more bottles of champagne it is abundantly clear that many people are still making money here.
But in these economically uncertain times, there is a growing temptation for those with money to take it, and themselves, somewhere a little safer.
Source: BBC News

Chinese Outbound Travel Agencies promote “quality travel” to Korea

The stereotypical image of Chinese tourists abroad is of large tour groups following a guide with a red flag through sightseeing spots and shopping malls.
But all that could be about to change, as the country’s leading travel agencies attempt to replace traditional tour packages with high-end experiences.
China Travel Service, a big player in the travel industry,  has announced it will cooperate with vacation resorts in South Korea to provide packages that appeal to well-off families, eco-golfers and winter sports enthusiasts.
“Getting in and out of a tour bus at tourist spots and being in a rush is no longer working with outbound tourists,” said Zhang Ping, president of CTS. “We have to move upstream in quality and create tourism products tailored to the demands of individuals and that give people more freedom for unique experiences.”
The company says its cooperation with South Korea’s GB Networks, an agency that provides travel services to 14 resorts, will give Chinese tourists access to large-scale ski resorts, golf courses, water parks, hotels and convention centers.
Jin Chengxiu, director of the CTS’ branch in Seoul, said it was the first time a Chinese travel agency has attempted to tap into the South Korean resort market, which currently attracts a large number of Korean and international tourists, but few Chinese.
“Most resorts are in northern Gangwon Province, which has a smooth, sandy coastline and is known as the epicenter of winter sports in Korea,” he said. “Chinese tourists, especially those traveling with their families or for business conventions, can spend several days and nights in one place relaxing.”
The province is also the site of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, and authorities expect to draw 10,000 tourists from China each year in the lead-up to the event.
According to Zhang, Chinese tour agencies are making bold attempts to offer a variety of high-end tourism packages to cater for a booming market demand.
“Some remote but captivating destinations that were believed to be too expensive for Chinese tourists are becoming more popular,” said Zhang, adding that the agency has organized trips to Seychelles in the Indian Ocean with chartered flights this year. “Because the number of Chinese outbound tourists is increasing, the prices of hotels and airline tickets are getting lower, which can cut the price for outbound travel.
“Amid the economic downturn, people are more likely to spend money on tourism to relieve stress. The industry is now also promoted by the Chinese government as a way to stimulate consumption.”
According to the National Tourism Administration, 38 million Chinese tourists traveled overseas in the first half of this year, up 18 percent from the same period last year.
After Japan, China is South Korea’s second largest source of inbound tourists. A new visa policy will come into effect next month, loosening restrictions on Chinese tourists in a bid to promote tourism.

The rise of the new Chinese International Traveler: Younger, Independent and Affluent.

The number of Chinese travelers making international trips was up by a strong 22 per cent in 2011, compared to 2010, and experts predict China is on track to overtake Germany and the US as the world’s largest outbound tourism market in the next few years.

The inaugural Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM) from Hotels.com, one of the world’s leading online hotel booking websites, gives an insight into how the rise of the Chinese traveller is changing the dynamics of the global hotel market.

Johan Svanstrom, Managing Director of Hotels.com Asia Pacific, commented: “The Chinese made a staggering 70 million international trips in 2011 and, while many of these were to Hong Kong and Macau, the number going further afield is growing significantly. Implementing strategies to cater specifically to this burgeoning source market is moving from a nice-to-have to a competitive necessity.”

Surveying more than 5,000 Hotels.com’s hotel partners around the world, the report found the majority of respondents envisage the boom in outbound Chinese travel continuing. One in five (22%) expect to see an increase of as much as 40%. Many national governments are facilitating the boom by relaxing visa requirements. Japan and Spain are examples of popular tourism markets that have already done this and Korea, amongst others, will implement similar changes later this year. Chinese international travelers are known to spend significant amounts on shopping and there is a clear opportunity for the hotel industry to grab a share of that spend for the stay experience itself.

The study found that the profile of Chinese guests is changing as they become increasingly more independent, confident, younger and more familiar with foreign cultures and customs.

According to Pierre Gervois, author of the Best Selling book How U.S. Retail, Travel and Hospitality Industries Can Attract Affluent Chinese Tourists, “Chinese outbound tourists are now extremely mature consumers, and know what they want – and do not want. The time of low cost group tours is now definitely over as they want a true travel experience, specifically in the United States, the #1 dream destination according to China Elite Focus’ survey”

Among hoteliers polled, it is clear that many are starting to adapt, offering Mandarin-speaking staff, translated materials, Chinese menus, entertainment options and the China UnionPay card services for payments. Examples from the study found that 41% of hotel respondents are planning to offer Chinese TV channels, while 66% of European hotel respondents are planning to offer Chinese breakfast options.

The Chinese economy continues to grow at a fast rate, contributing to the build-up of a travelling middle class of several hundred million people. With the the ongoing economic uncertainty in key markets, catering to Chinese travellers should be high on the list of priorities.

“Hoteliers should form concrete plans in two areas. Firstly, develop marketing strategies to reach the Chinese source market; concentrating on online as the Chinese internet population has now crossed the 500 million mark. Secondly, adapt hotel property services to cater to the expectation and needs of this growing audience,” concluded Svanstrom.

Source: Travel Daily News, August 2012