LONDON — Global Blue has swung the spotlight onto Chinese tourists — and their changing shopping habits — with a new report that’s set to be released Wednesday, ahead of China’s Labor Day public holiday.
The tax-free shopping agency plans to release its first Globe Shopper Report: China Edition, combining data from more than 27 million tax-free shopping transactions with the opinions of 5,000 regular Chinese travelers about their spending plans for 2016.
It’s shaping up to be a year of transition: As reported, in March Chinese tax-free shopping spend turned negative, falling 24 percent year-on-year. It followed a period of slow growth for the first two months of 2016 and an overall increase of 58 percent in 2015.
Global Blue said the decline was due to a number of factors, including the new and more difficult Schengen biometric visa demands and the terrorist attacks in Europe over the past six months.
A “safe and secure” destination was cited by 56 percent of Chinese respondents as an important destination factor, according to the study. Both Burberry and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton saw their sales tarnished over the past six months as tourists shunned popular European capital cities for fear of further terrorist attacks.
Growth figures in March also suffered from a tough comparison with 2015. The corresponding month last year saw growth of 122 percent year-on-year, partly due to the Chinese New Year holiday falling later.
Global Blue said the impact of the fluctuation of the yuan on tax-free shopping sales is likely to be minimal during the first quarter of this year, as it weakened by just 3 percent against the euro.
However, Global Blue said its research indicated that almost half of those surveyed would reconsider their destination or reduce their shopping budgets due to a further weakened yuan.
Despite the recent negative growth, Chinese shoppers remain the largest tax-free shopping market, accounting for a third of sales worldwide, according to Global Blue.
“Shopping remains a hugely important part of the holiday experience for regular Chinese travelers, as 81 percent of those planning international travel in 2016 will shop during their trip,” the report said. The average shopping budget will be 3,544 euros, or $4,000, per trip to Europe, and 2,517 euros, or $2,840, per trip to Asia.
May and October set to be busiest months for regular Chinese travelers, with May expected to be the most popular month for travel to Europe, Japan and South Korea. October will be popular for visits to other Asia-Pacific destinations, such as Australia and Singapore.
South Korea and France are the most popular destinations for Asia and for Europe, respectively.
The report said Asia is set to be “the primary recipient” of Chinese visitors throughout the year, with almost three-quarters of those planning a holiday in 2016 intending to travel within the region.
South Korea is predicted to become the most visited destination with over a quarter of regular Chinese travelers planning a trip this year, while Japan follows with 23 percent.
Within Asia, Japan was the region’s strongest performer with regard to tax-free shopping during the first quarter, with 50 percent growth.
Despite the issues with Europe, 41 percent of regular Chinese travelers who are planning a holiday in 2016 said they intend to visit Europe. France is the most popular European destination followed by Germany, Italy and the U.K.
Global Blue said for about one-third of Chinese shoppers in Europe, the ability to buy products at a better price than they can in China is an important consideration.