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21 Jul, 2017

Chinese tourism study reveals expenditure shift from shopping to culture

Beijing, 15 July 2017, China Daily — Chinese tourists are the biggest spenders in the world, but increasingly direct their dollars away from shopping to local culture. Their overall trip expenditure is still on the rise, according to a recent survey.

Chinese tourists learn to make Korean-style pickles during a visit to South Korea.[Photo/Xinhua]

The new study by Oliver Wyman, an international management consulting firm, covered 2,000 correspondents from the Chinese mainland, representing a broad cross-section of Chinese travelers.

As a growing number of Chinese people opt for overseas destinations during holidays, businesses worldwide are targeting them as lavish spenders. Yet major changes in their taste and travel trends indicate new business approaches may be necessary.

Data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization show that residents from the Chinese mainland made 135 billion foreign trips in 2016.

Their overall overseas spending was about $261 billion last year, more than twice the amount paid by outbound travelers from the United States, the second-largest source of international travelers.

But the rising numbers don’t necessarily translate into boosts for travel-related businesses.

The average Chinese tourist spent about 6,705 yuan ($986) on shopping when traveling last year, down from 8,050 yuan in 2015, according to the survey. Shopping accounted for 33 percent of their overall spending abroad in 2016, and less than 41 percent in 2015.

During the first four months of this year, Chinese tourists’ overseas spending on shopping dropped 37.2 percent year-on-year to 27.79 billion yuan, while their expenditure on entertainment and cultural tours increased by more than 80 percent on average, Chinese media reported.

The Oliver Wyman report shows that overall shopping fell to the third spot on a list of reasons to travel overseas in 2016, down from the second spot in 2015. The top two reasons were sightseeing and leisure.

Despite the new development, Chinese travelers will continue to play a crucial role in shaping the market, given the growing number of outbound travelers, presenting opportunities for consumer brands, retailers and service industries, the report noted.

In contrast with shoppers flocking to department stores before, Chinese travelers currently are growing much cooler in their consumption, industry insiders said.

They are becoming more independent. In shopping, for instance, more than 60 percent of Chinese travelers plan ahead, relying on word of mouth, brands’ official websites, Chinese e-commerce portals and travel forums.

And they are becoming increasingly likely to plan their trips themselves, rather than follow itineraries planned by travel firms.

As a result, Chinese tourists reported a marked rise in spending on hotels, dining and sightseeing during their overseas travels, said Chen Yu, an executive at Bank of China’s banking card center.

They have a growing demand for recreation and local culinary and cultural experiences, Chen noted.

As the archetypal Chinese traveler disappears, businesses need to adapt, which means understanding the subtleties and diversity of tourists’ preferences and motivations, the report said.

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