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Shopping loses its attraction for Chinese tourists

News, 13 July 2017
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HONG KONG: The number of Chinese tourists travelling overseas continues to rise but their spending on product shopping is declining as they seek out experiences instead, a new report says.

Prepare for Turbulence: The Chinese Traveler of Today and Tomorrow was based on a survey of 2,000 Chinese travellers by consultancy Oliver Wyman.

It found that shopping had dropped from being the second biggest motivation for travelling in 2015 to third in 2016, behind sightseeing, and recreation and entertainment.

At the same time, while overall travel spending had increased, the proportion devoted to shopping had declined from 41% to 33%.

This is in part a consequence of the growth of cross-border e-commerce which has reduced the practice of buying unavailable products to resell in China; daigou shopping accounted for 8% of travellers' spending in 2015 but just 3% in 2015.

Shopping for others dipped from 13% to 12% while shopping for oneself was down from 20% to 18%.

Another factor has been the democratisation of travel. The report notes that those travellers who ranked shopping as the main reason to travel were generally from lower income brackets – so the most "intent shoppers" are not the biggest spenders in either shopping or total travel spending.

There has also been a marked shift in the planning of holidays, with independent travel now common – one in seven trips in 2015 was organised by a travel agent, but just one in 40 in 2016 – and more people are travelling with their children.

"Businesses globally have to adjust their strategy to think about how to capture the new Chinese tourist dollar," said Hunter Williams, Oliver Wyman's Shanghai-based partner. "It's less about the outlet mall now and more about the national park."

Spending is shifting away from products, with fine dining, cultural journeys and adventure sports now part of the overseas travel experience.

Data sourced from Oliver Wyman; additional content by WARC staff

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