Spending by Chinese tourists is expected to jump 23 percent this year to $229 billion, eclipsing $200 billion for the first time, according to a report from Fung Business Intelligence Centre Global Retail and Technology and consulting firm China Luxury Advisors.
And that momentum will continue, with the report projecting that spending by Chinese tourists will reach $422 billion by 2020.
Current figures support the projections. According to Global Blue data analyzed by Barclays, global tourism spending rose 38.7 percent in August, as a surge in spending by Chinese travelers compensated for a sharp drop in activity by Russians.
“The reading backs up recent comments from the likes of Salvatore Ferragamo, who stated that Chinese trading remains robust,” Barclays said in a research report published Tuesday.
“As the Chinese become more wealthy and decide to explore and come to the U.S. and not just the coastal cities, we believe there is a significant opportunity — and not just in luxury,” Deborah Weinswig, FBIC executive director, head of global retail and technology, told WWD.
The report, entitled “Global Chinese Shoppers: The $200 Billion Opportunity,” cites China’s rising middle class, the growing numbers of Chinese students attending schools overseas, and currency fluctuations as boosting overseas travel.
In the year 2020, 234 million Chinese are projected to travel globally. Increasingly, these travelers will go farther afield, to the U.S. and Europe.
According to Barclays, in the second quarter of this year, Europe was a key driver of tourism spending growth, with spending up 36.4 percent in August. The trend should continue into the second half of the year, Barclays said.
“This strong global spend has seemingly more than offset a large decline in Hong Kong/Macau as well as limited growth in the Mainland. We remain optimistic that growth in Q3 will remain robust, driven by these very strong tourism figures,” Barclays added.
Global Blue does not track tourist spending in the U.S., Hong Kong or Dubai as those countries do not have the VAT refund systems that Global Blue operates.
Chinese tourism spending overall rose 65.8 percent in August versus an increase of 73.6 percent in July, with spending by Chinese tourists up 60.5 percent in Europe and 87 percent in the rest of the world. Barclays noted that middle-class Chinese shoppers continued to spend in Asia, particularly in Japan.
Spending by Russian tourists was down for the 20th consecutive month, decreasing 31.7 percent in August after a 32.3 percent decline the previous month.
Overall, watches and jewelry was again the strongest category across destinations, with spending up 35.6 percent in August, largely driven by a 43.1 percent increase in Chinese spending. Leather goods gained 34.2 percent in August, while fashion and clothing — which is more exposed to Russian spending — posted a 21.7 percent rise.
With Chinese tourists, “Some retailers have been incredibly innovative attracting them,” Weinswig said. “We’ve seen kind of an outreach and those retailers have been rewarded for it. We are seeing a lot of the department stores, certainly the Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Saks of the world, becoming very forward-thinking. If you go to Saks, especially on the main floor, you’ve got beauty consultants who can speak Chinese. Also from a payment perspective, more and more retailers are making it easier.”
Among the examples cited by Weinswig, Bloomingdale’s and Spain’s El Corte Inglés department stores stage annual Chinese New Year campaigns, and Los Angeles’ luxury Beverly Center mall launched a China Ready program in 2013 that includes special discounts and offers.
Weinswig’s report is based on a survey of more than 1,000 Chinese Internet consumers regarding their travel and spending for the year ending May 21, and combines that data with economic and tourism growth projections.
The report indicates that Hong Kong is still the most popular destination for Chinese travelers, with 12.9 percent of the respondents visiting the city in the period covered by the survey. Europe was visited by 7 percent, and the U.S. by 3 percent. Ninety percent of travelers reported making a retail purchase, and the average total expenditure came to $1,678. Chinese visitors to the U.S. spent $2,555 each, while those touring Europe spent $2,548. Clothing, footwear and accessories were the most popular category for purchasing (56 percent) followed closely by fragrances and beauty products (52 percent).
Weinswig said in terms of Chinese tourist spending, despite the difficulties with the Chinese economy, “It’s almost like this watershed moment — a tipping point.”
She also predicted that despite the strength of the U.S. dollar, Chinese tourists will increase their U.S. spend going forward. “This idea of authentic American brands is so important right now,” she said.
According to the report, Chinese visitors to the U.S. grew 172 percent last year, while the number of visitors to Europe grew 10 percent.
“With middle-class incomes rising, millions of Chinese are poised to take their first overseas trips, joining group tours and visiting the world’s biggest cities and most popular destinations,” Weinswig wrote. “Meanwhile, the number of experienced overseas travelers will continue to increase as Chinese travelers take their second, third and fourth trips overseas….As purchasing patterns evolve, retailers and brands need to evaluate their Chinese consumer strategy from a global standpoint. Investment in brand building with Chinese consumers can produce gains on a global basis, not just in China.”