HONG KONG/GENEVA: Chinese tax-free shopping spend fell -24% in March year-on-year, but a new report still ranks China as the world's top shopper market because it accounts for a third of all global tax-free sales.
Global Blue, a Switzerland-based firm which processes travellers' payments, attributed some of the decline in March to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels as well as new visa restrictions on gaining access to the European Union.
Despite these issues, Global Blue expects Chinese overseas shopping to pick up this year, especially in May and October, both key travelling months that coincide with the major Chinese holidays of Labour Day (May 1-4) and Golden Week (October 1-7).
May is expected to be the busiest month for travel to Europe, Japan and South Korea, while October will be popular for visits to some destinations in Asia-Pacific, including Australia and Singapore.
The good news for retailers is that shopping remains a hugely important part of the holiday experience for regular Chinese travellers and a full 81% of them expect to go shopping during their trips this year.
For its "Globe Shopper Report: China Edition", Global Blue analysed more than 27m tax-free shopping transactions and commissioned a poll of 5,000 Chinese travellers.
Asia is expected to be their destination of choice with about a quarter (26%) planning to visit South Korea, closely followed by Japan (23%).
And despite concerns about terrorism and the new biometric visa requirements to enter the EU's Schengen area, a full 41% of regular Chinese travellers who plan a holiday in 2016 intend to visit Europe.
France (16%) is by far the most popular European destination, followed by Germany (8%), and then Italy and the UK (6% each).
The report also revealed that the top five services that attract Chinese shoppers are tax-free shopping (65%), the ability to pay with China Union Pay (55%) or home currency (46%), staff who speak their language (39%) and in-store Wi-Fi (26%).
Data sourced from Global Blue; additional content by Warc staff