Chinese middle class tourists redefine the shape of international tourism

Chinese Middle class tourists - China Elite FocusWen Zhong, a 28-year-old from Shanghai has already been to France and the Netherlands . He is now flying from Schiphol airport in Amsterdam to his final stop, Finland, where he hopes to see the Northern Lights (“very exclusive”). Mr Wen is typical of a new wave of Chinese tourists: young, affluent and travelling independently, rather than on a “20-cities-in ten-days” bus tour like those that brought his predecessors. Such tours still appeal to most Chinese tourists on their first trip further afield than Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan. But a third are now organising their own travel, spending more and staying longer in each of their destinations.
Nearly one in ten international tourists worldwide is now Chinese, with 97.3m outward-bound journeys from the country last year, of which around half were for leisure. Chinese tourists spend most in total ($129 billion in 2013, followed by Americans at $86 billion) and per tax-free transaction ($1,130 compared with $494 by Russians). More than 80% say that shopping is vital to their plans, compared with 56% of Middle Eastern tourists and 48% of Russians. They are expected to buy more luxury goods next year while abroad than tourists from all other countries combined.
The dizzying pace of growth is expected to continue. Only around 5% of China’s population now own passports, and most of those who travel go to Hong Kong or Macau. But increased affluence, a trend towards longer holidays, fewer visa conditions and growing numbers of repeat travellers mean that every year more will take foreign trips, and more will venture farther. By 2020 the number of foreign trips made from China will double, predicts Aaron Fischer of CLSA, an investment firm, and spending by Chinese tourists abroad will triple.

Shops, hotels and other tourist businesses are scrambling to profit from the new arrivals. Schiphol, which has direct flights to seven Chinese cities, hands out presents in the arrivals hall around Chinese New Year and has a free translation app to point Chinese travellers to its luxury shops, all of which accept Chinese currency and Union Pay (China’s main credit card). Benno Leeser, the boss of Gassan Diamonds, a Dutch jewellery chain with 14 outlets in the airport, travels to China every year to schmooze with the travel agents who bring him his best customers.

New destinations are trying to work out how to get themselves on the itinerary. After direct airline connections, the next step is to make getting a visa easier or, better still, to bring in a visa-waiver scheme. In 2013 Chinese citizens could visit just 44 other countries without a pre-arranged visa; Taiwanese citizens could visit 130, and Americans and Britons over 170. In 2010 the European Tour Operators Association found that a quarter of Chinese who had hoped to visit Europe for leisure had abandoned their plans because of visa delays. Britain, which is outside the European Schengen free-travel area, requires its own visa—the main reason it gets just a ninth of the Chinese tourists France does.
America has started to interview Chinese visa-applicants online and allows them to pick up their visas at any of 900 bank branches, rather than the American embassy. It saw a 22% increase in Chinese visitors last year. But places with visa-waiver schemes, like the Maldives, are really thriving: last year the number of Chinese visitors to the islands increased by 45% and reached nearly a third of the 1.1m total. A boom in Chinese honeymoons helps. Beach resorts are also popular with “6+1s”—young couples travelling with one child and two sets of parents. Parents and children do adventure activities; grandparents, who are less likely to speak English, go to evening shows and cannot get lost.

The next step is to tailor language, products and services to the Chinese market. Printemps, a shop in Paris, has a dedicated entrance for Chinese tour groups; Harrods in London has 100 Union Pay terminals scattered throughout the store. Both are recruiting Mandarin-speaking staff and have Chinese-language websites and maps. Hotels increase their appeal by offering Chinese television channels, menus with pictures, and congee (Chinese porridge) for breakfast. Such details are seen as a sign of respect.
Appealing to the new Chinese horde means tapping into their love of a good romantic tale, says John Kester of the UN World Tourism Organisation. Thailand saw the number of Chinese visitors triple after a blockbuster film, “Lost in Thailand”, inspired a generation to come and sample Thai beer. Mauritius is hoping that “Five Minutes to Tomorrow”, a romance due out later this year featuring Liu Shishi, a popular actress, and partly filmed on the island, will bring it a similar bonanza.

The new generation of Chinese luxury travelers don’t rely anymore on old fashioned Chinese outbound travel agencies: They prefer to carefully select their destination and hotels with the help of specialized luxury travel magazines, such as the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine of Luxury Hotels of America, both published by the fast growing publishing company China Elite Focus Magazines. “We opened a new office in New York City last year” said Pierre Gervois, the Publisher. “Our editorial team is based in Shanghai, and our sales office is now in the United States, to be closer to our advertisers, mostly luxury brands who want to use our media portfolio to reach directly independent Chinese travelers”
The toughest step is getting noticed by Chinese would-be travellers, says Frank Budde of the Boston Consulting Group and co-author of “Winning the Next Billion Asian Travellers”. Nearly half of China’s population is now online, and two-thirds of those planning to travel use online material when preparing their itinerary. Since they use different search engines and social-media platforms from everywhere else, success largely depends on being blogged about on these platforms. Here, destinations can make their own luck. Tourism New Zealand’s decision to host the fairy-tale wedding of Yao Chen, an actress with 66m followers on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, in Queenstown in 2012 was rewarded with 40m posts and comments on discussion forums, 7,000 news articles—and a surge in interest from Chinese lovebirds.

Source: The Economist

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California retailers bet big on Chinese tourists

Chinese shoppers - Luxury Hotels of AmericaIn Los Angeles, many tourism officials see Chinese travelers as the wave of the future. California’s No. 1 market for overseas visitors is China, said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California, a non-profit geared toward maintaining and developing tourism marketing programs in the state.  She said Chinese tourists spent more than $1.6 billion in 2012, and spending levels are expected to increase, with China’s growing middle class and the easier access to visas for U.S. travel.
“We’re seeing a trajectory on China that is once in a career or lifetime,” Beteta said.
And it’s that growth that many tourist attractions and venues want to capture in sales.
Beteta’s non-profit hosted a forum at the Langham Huntington hotel in Pasadena on Wednesday, where more than 460 people gathered to discuss tourism issues, including how to better cater to Chinese travelers.
The tourists are coming from large metropolitan Chinese cities like Shanghai and Beijing, as well as second-tier cities like Qingdao, Hangzhou or Chengdu.
Reports  show a growing interest from affluent Chinese nationals to invest in American real estate, business and send their children to the U.S. for study. Additionally, Chinese millionaires tend to be on the younger side. The average age of a millionaire in China is around 37, compared to 57 in the U.S.
One key factor is also how much money tourists from China spend – an average $170 a day in L.A., which compares with tourists from other locales spending an average $163 in L.A.

But how to convince affluent Chinese tourists to choose a U.S. destination versus another? Chinese travelers have their secret weapon in their iPad. Several digital travel magazines entirely in Chinese mandarin are now published for the famous Apple tablet, and have a tremendous impact on how Chinese tourists plan their trip to America. Publications like Luxury Hotels of America, Niuyue Mag, or the Shanghai Travelers’ Club ( China Elite Focus publications) have gained tens of thousands of new readers over the last year. According to Sam Wang, a Shanghai businessman traveling three to four times a year to the U.S. “I read Luxury Hotels of America before choosing a hotel because they have a high quality editorial content about hotels that I can’t find in regular travel websites or booking engines in China.” He also said ” I want the top hotels where American famous people go, not the hotels for tourists that are advertised by cheap travel agencies”.
Businesses are hoping to give tourists more reasons to come to their attractions by pulling out all the stops. Hotels like the Hilton are offering Chinese breakfast, with dishes that include rice porridge. And stores like Macy’s are offering a 10 percent discount that can be used on some luxury brands.
Advertisement Tower - Gervois Hotel Rating May 2017 featuring Pierre Gervois“We’ve done a number of promotions to make it very easy and appealing for the consumers to shop at Macy’s,” said Brian Chuan, director of tourism marketing and development at Macy’s. “We have the products that they want. We carry all the American designer brands that they are looking for.”
He said Chinese tourists spend the most money at Macy’s compared to any other international group. Macy’s tracks the sales by how much the tourists spend on their international credit cards. He said it’s cheaper for Chinese tourists to buy the American brands here, because in some cases it might cost three times more in China.
“We see them leaving with an extra luggage filled with things they want to bring home,” Chuan said.
Chuan also said Macy’s accepts the China UnionPay card, which is a payment card associated with network of banks in China. That makes it convenient for shoppers who don’t want to pay in all cash.

Spending from international visitors make up just 3 percent of Macy’s overall sales at its 800 stores nationwide, Chuan said. But he pointed out that at some locations, spending from international tourists could make up 20 to 50 percent of a store’s total sales, he said.
Chuan travels to China to market Macy’s to groups such as tour operators and banks. Macy’s doesn’t have any locations in China, but Chuan said people there are familiar with the brand.
Macy’s has 13 stores with visitor centers, that allows customers to check in their bags. Centers in Southern California include one in San Diego and Downtown L.A., for its close proximity to the convention center and Staples Center. At key stores, Macy’s may have Mandarin speaking staff.
It appears to be working. Just one day last week in New York, buses dropped off about 1,500 Chinese travelers at the Macy’s, he said.

Source: Wendy Lee,  Southern California Public Radio / Chinese tourists in America blog

The power of China Union Pay cards readers

Wealthy Chinese tourists with money to spend don’t need an excuse to buy luxury goods, but they do need the plastic to facilitate their purchases. That’s why it wasn’t until Harrod’s installed special Chinese credit card readers in its stores earlier this year that the store could boast it had sold two bottles of £25,000 wine, and one £140,000 diamond to Chinese customers.
The store has seen a 40 percent increase in salesto wealthy Chinese tourists since installing 75 China Union Pay terminals into its London store.
Using data from VAT reclaim forms (UK sales tax can be reclaimed by visiting tourists at the airport), the luxury store has calculated sales to wealthy Chinese have risen to an average of £3,500 per tourist.
According to the recent statistics released by the ultra high-end travel club for rich Chinese “Shanghai Travelers’ Club”, 37% of Chinese travelers to the UK are ready to spend more than £54,000, and 12% of them is ready to spend more than £70,000 in London!
The increase is largely due to the fact that Chinese bank cards are not recognised outside of China because they use a separate card processing method via China Union Pay card terminals. According to one Chinese saleslady at Harrods, Chinese tourists visiting from the mainland have to bring “a lot of cash” when they travel abroad because so few places have CUP terminals.
In London, the only other store that has the terminals is Selfridges where sales to Chinese shoppers have seen “double digit growth” since the installation of CUP terminals last June, according to a spokesperson.
Making it easy for Chinese tourists to spend money with their domestic cards seems to be a no-brainer. Looking around the store, small groups of Chinese customers now feature prominently. So too do tour groups, who arrive at the store en masse. Harrods’ Mandarin speaking staff say they handle on average 20 to 30 Chinese visitors a day. During Chinese holidays like New Year in February, and two week-long holidays in May and October, coach parties with up to 70 tourists is standard fare.
Joined by telephone from Hong-Kong, Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus declared “Luxury retailers should install China Union Pay readers and hire more Chinese speaking staff” He added “It’s the key to success to increase sales with wealthy Chinese tourists”
One Mandarin-speaking sales assistant told beyondbrics that Hermes is the most popular brand, followed by Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Dior. Speaking about their Chinese clientèle another spokesperson said, “they are some of our most discerning customers.”
On a recent trip to the store, one young Chinese shopper from Chengdu, studying at Manchester University, said Chanel was her favourite brand. Her male companion, who was carrying a giant Chanel carrier bag filled with her purchases, quipped: “It used to be Arabs who were the richest shoppers. Now it is the Chinese, isn’t it? Next, it will be the Indians.”