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As the US Visa discussion continues (described in an earlier post), more experts are chipping in their own takes on potential benefits of eased rules, sizing up the volume and impact of the Chinese tourists’ colossal spending.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Travel Association urged the government to overhaul its visa system, saying it serves as a virtual “keep out” sign.

Chinese travelers are among the world’s biggest spenders. snapping up Louis Vuitton LVMH bags and jewelry at Tiffany & Co in the world capitals they visit.

They are set to overtake their Japanese counterparts as the second-largest luxury spender behind the United States within a few years.

“Quite frankly, the Chinese tourist is today the dominant influence in the gateway cities,” Polo Ralph Lauren Chief Operating Officer Roger Farah said on a call with Wall Street analysts on Wednesday.

“Our sales at duty free are mindboggling,” said Bernd Fritz, chief executive of the perfume company Coty.




China’s GQ magazine (a luxury lifestyle magazine, launched in China in 2009) is running a story about Chinese travel trends, entitled “The Chinese’ Travel Revolution.” This article is remarkable because it shows a strong new preference among Chinese travelers to be more adventurous and (for the ones who can afford it) to experience something outstanding and not just group tourism.

It is also interesting that these stories are not published in travel magazines anymore but in lifestyle magazines. Travel is definitely becoming more and more of a hot topic in China. It has been that way in the West already for a long time but because of restrictions the Chinese have only just picked up on it. And now they are hungry for it.

Indeed, this article features anything but the ordinary. Highlights include horseback riding on Hoysgol Lake, a magic lake that freezes overnight, and whose sound of cracking ice guarantees good luck for the entire year to come; MiGE-29 fighter airplane stunts experienced from inside the craft; watching Peru’s 900 types of wild birds or Sichuan’s two or three; hunting and fishing with the indigenous tribes of the Amazon rainforest or engaging in witchcraft with the remote tribes of Togo, Benin, and Burka Faso; experiencing the world’s purest sunshine and seawater in Greenland or the purest air on the Drangmehhu River (with the most rapid water, incidentally) in Bhutan; hiking up to Machu Picchu or pedalling all over Italy on a pasta tour. Then, after the Chinese traveler finishes fishing from a helicopter over waterfalls not far from the Nile, and coming nose to nose with polar bears and foxes in the North Pole, he or she can save some lives on the Global Charter Flight Tour.

It’s a fact: Chinese perception towards traveling is changing radically. Travel is no longer for the weak of heart, and the smart players in the tourism industry are taking notice.

interior entrance to Bloomingdale's in the Dubai Mall

The glitsy Bloomingdale's in the Dubai Mall

In response to the surge in Chinese visitors in countries of the United Arab Emirates, businesses are pulling out all the stops to attract more visitors and convince them to boost their spending, with special promotions that run for a couple of weeks into the Lunar New Year, even to the end of the month.

Many hotels are offering special meals and a la carte menus, while others have rolled out golf, spa and overnight packages for guests who visit over the next couple of weeks.

The retailer Bloomingdale’s says it plans to double its number of Chinese-speaking staff to cater for a growing number of customers.

Hoteliers, restaurateurs and retailers throughout the Emirates are reporting a surge in Chinese visitors ringing in the Year of the Rabbit.

About 2,500 Chinese visitors have reportedly come to the UAE through Hunter International Tourism, one of China’s largest travel agencies, to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which began yesterday, or attend conferences. The numbers are expected to match, if not exceed, last year’s figure.

“China is a massive market,” says Mr Goddard, the managing director of TRI Hospitality Consulting in Dubai, and the Chinese New Year period is “going to be a huge opportunity for getting Chinese nationals to the Middle East. Anything that promotes the Chinese market would be good for the long term.”

Global spending by tourists from China was up 17 per cent in 2009 from 2008 to US$43.7 billion (Dh160.5bn), according to the UN World Tourism Organization.

Overall, the UAE has seen a sharp increase in visitors from China since the autumn of 2009, when the country gained “approved destination” status from the Chinese government to have tourist groups come through the region.


UK Retailers are Urging the Government to Simplify the Visa Process

The majority of Chinese people travelling to Europe apply for a Schengen visa, which enables entry to the 24 European countries that have signed the freedom of movement agreement.

The UK is not party to that agreement and a separate visa is required, necessitating a personal visit to one of 12 application centres in China. Application forms are 10 pages long and have only just become available in Mandarin.

UK luxury retailers are pressing the government to tackle visa bottlenecks for Chinese tourists, claiming bureaucracy is causing shoppers to shun London stores in favour of centres such as Paris and Milan, reports the Financial Times.

Retail spending in the UK from Chinese visitors topped £350m last year, according to Global Blue, a financial services company, but retailers including Harrods, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason argue this could be far higher if the UK visa process was simplified.

Global Blue estimates the visa application procedure could rob luxury retailers of £165m of sales during the next two years.

the Harrods store at night

The glittering Harrods department store, Knightsbridge, London


The Schengen Area comprises the territories of twenty-five European countries that have implemented the Schengen Agreement signed in the town of Schengen, Luxembourg, in 1985. The Schengen Area operates very much like a single state for international travel purposes with border controls for travellers travelling in and out of the area, but with no internal border controls.


Quarter of the world’s luxury goods were bought by Chinese people, of which 60% were bought abroad. For the next five years, China’s luxury market will
reach 14.6 billion U.S. dollars, accounting for the amount of the world’s top consumer of luxury goods.

The New Rich in China

Image taken from David SG Goodman's book 'The New Rich in China'

“This year, China will replace the U.S. as the world’s second-largest luxury goods consumption market,” Gucci Group Chief Executive Officer, Robert Polet said,” last year, just the Mainland China wealthy, have bought a quarter of the world’s luxury products.”

For the world’s luxury brands, Chinese tourists have both young and strong consumption potential. Tourism has become an important way to buy luxury goods and statistics show that 60% of the luxury goods are bought in foreign countries. Especially in tour groups to Europe, almost all of the tourists wish to pay a visit to luxury shops.

China is going into a golden age of luxury goods consumption. There are three major reasons. First: China has come out a group of rich class who has
the power to consume. They pursue quality and personalized consumption. Second, among the first affluence group, luxury has created a demonstration
effect, made white-collar workers and small bosses began to pursue, and become a consumption wave.

Finally, many only child step into the society now, their idea of consumption has changed, and family has strength to support their idea. For the Chinese luxury consumption market trends, the industry estimate is that for the next five years, China’s luxury market will reach 14.6 billion U.S. dollars, accounting for the amount of the world’s top consumer of luxury goods.

Source: 2010-01-14

Book image: The New Rich in China – future rulers, present lives, by David SG Goodman

A trip labeled “the first real global tour”, offered by Hong Kong and Taiwan travel agents and a Mainland China webpage sold all 30 available seats in just minutes, reports the China Daily newspaper. The chinese tourists will travel by air, train, helicopter and ship to reach destinations which ‘represent’ Antarctica, South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Arctic. Ofcouse staying all the way in top-level hotels.

“We are now considering the possibility of adding one more such group to meet the demand,” said Tang Yibo from the Chinese online booking page Ctrip. The healthy response from the market was “not a total surprise for us,” he said, as the number of wealthy people on the mainland is expanding quickly. “Taking half a million yuan (appoximately € 50.000) to travel around the world is not too expensive for rich Chinese,” said Li Xinjian, a professor at the Beijing International Studies University’s School of Tourism Management.

“In the future tour market, luxurious tours and economic tours will be a major trend in China’s tourism industry. As riches increase in the country, people will spend more on travel,” he said. After the first such luxurious tour appeared in Guangzhou in 2006, which charged 20 mainland tourists 100,000 yuan each to go to Antarctica, expensive tours are now appearing frequently. On March 12, a travel agency in Jilin province organized a luxurious hunting tour in Changbai Mountain, costing nearly 150,000 yuan a person, about 20 times higher than a normal tour.

The China Daily article shows a clear trend in the Chinese rich and upper middle class to live life well and spend the money they have earned. Chen Chen, a Beijing office lady mentions that people are gradually accepting luxurious tours, and she also would spend most of her earnings on traveling as long as she makes enough money. A comment which hardly will be heard from people just one generation older than her.

China outbound tweeds

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Michael Kaltenhauser

Founder and director of Astronaut, a marketing agency based in Beijing which is specialized on promoting destinations to Chinese outbound tourists

Laura Hine

Online Communications Assistant at Astronaut