The power of Chinese international tourists

November 8, 2011

These days, streets of London, Paris, Tokyo and even Santorini are filled with Chinese tourists. In London’s Heathrow Airport Terminal 3, the queue for the tax refund is so long that one has to wait 3 hours to get his or her tax refund (my mother, on her recent trip to the UK, had to give up in the end).

But the potential economic impact of Chinese international tourists — estimated to be 100 million by 2020, or 6.4 percent of global outbound tourists according to United Nations World Tourism Organisation — is something that could boost sluggish consumer spending in the West.

Hong Kong and Macau, currently the top destinations for Chinese tourists, are reaping the benefits from Chinese tourists thanks to their rich offering of luxury goods. In Hong Kong alone, Chinese tourists spent HK$87 billion ($11 billion) last year — fivefold compared with 2000 — with shopping accounting for 74 percent of their total spending.

Europe is also catching up.  In 2010, an estimated2.5 million Chinese visited countries in Western Europe. France, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom are among the most popular European destinations.

“Luxury shopping is among the highlights for Chinese travelers to Paris due to the heavy luxury consumption tax imposed in mainland China and the superior quality of products in Europe,” writes Grégoire Biollaz, research analyst at Credit Suisse.

“Other attractions for Chinese tourists include art, culture, architecture and gastronomy. The trend from shopping tourism towards a cultural travelling experience still has further room to grow.”

And this trend — part of the rise of emerging market consumers — is something Credit Suisse is focused on.

“We believe that luxury goods companies will be the key beneficiaries of the boom in Chinese international tourism flows,” he adds.

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