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Chinese tourists shop less

News, 30 April 2015

LONDON/BEIJING: Annual spending by Chinese tourists on overseas trips exceeds total household consumption in Indonesia or Turkey according to new figures, but per capita spending is falling.

Estimates from China Confidential, a Financial Times research service, indicated that spending in 2014 by Chinese travellers on outbound trips reached a total of Rmb3.1tn ($498bn), a 9.3% year-on-year increase and more than overall household expenditure in either  Indonesia ($436bn) or Turkey ($442bn).

But the figures, based on based on a survey of 1,288 outbound tourists and 40 travel agencies nationwide, also showed that while more trips were being made – there was a 20.6% increase in outbound trips in 2014 to 117m – per capita spending had fallen 6.2%.

While this was in part attributable to a slowdown in China's economy and the crackdown on corruption which has affected gifting habits, the Financial Times also noted a shift in spending priorities, particularly among the wealthiest tourists (those with a household income exceeding Rmb350,000).

This group reported spending 34.4% less on shopping, preferring to spend more on entertainment (+31.1%) and other goods services such as car rental and excursions (+78.6).

With experiences becoming more important than luxury purchases, the Financial Times anticipated that other sectors, such as hospitality, entertainment and tourism services, would now profit to a much greater extent from Chinese tourism.

The behaviour of some of those tourists has sparked headlines and attracted official intervention. Instances of air rage, for example, can detract from the national image and the government has felt the need to require tour groups of a certain size to include one person able to warn others when they are "acting in an uncivilised manner".

South Korea's Incheon airport has come up against a different problem. More Chinese passengers has meant more shopping for duty-free goods. While this aspect at least is welcome, many of these tourists are delaying flights or even missing them as they wait to pick up their purchases.

And the more they buy, the heavier their luggage and the greater the likelihood it will exceed the cabin weight allowance, leading to further delays as this is then reprocessed as cargo.

Data sourced from Financial Times, Chosun Ilbo; additional content by Warc staff