The shopping lure of Europe

Updated: 2014-12-13 08:01

By Wang Chao and Joseph Catanzaro(China Daily)

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The shopping lure of Europe

Gong Jiayi, a Chinese tourist in Paris, France. Europe must step up its effort to attract Chinese travelers. Photo provided to China Daily

What distinguishes Europe from the other tourism destinations for Chinese travelers? Maybe it's shopping.

The European Travel Commission estimates that this year 8 million Chinese tourists will visit Europe, a 50-percent increase since 2010. According to the China Tourism Academy, in 2013 shopping accounted for the biggest expenditure for Chinese tourists abroad and amounted to more than 50 percent of the average travelers' total spend on holidays, up from about 33 percent in 2012.

With an average budget of $1,100 a day, excluding accommodation, Chinese tourists spend more than those from any other country when they go on holiday.

James Wu, general manager of luxury travel agency Uulux, says Chinese travelers always go on a shopping spree so long as they believe that the products are cheaper than in China.

"Chinese people usually spend one to two days shopping in both long (10-15 days) and short (3-5 days) trips. "

But China's equivalent of Visa or MasterCard is only UnionPay, and the coverage in Europe can be patchy, particularly in restaurants and smaller stores. So facilitating easy payment for Chinese shoppers is in Europe's best interests, analysts say.

The China Tourism Academy predicts that the country will become the No 1 global market in the next five years in terms of the total number of outbound tourists, rising to 150 million Chinese travelers going abroad annually.

The China International Monitor Survey shows 38 percent of Chinese outbound travelers are between the ages of 25 and 34. They prefer to make their own travel arrangements instead of going on a group tour, and to books accommodation online or via mobile apps.

While the number of Chinese tourists holidaying in Europe has increased an average of 21 percent annually over the past five years, more than half of them have been first-time visitors, and repeat visitor numbers have yet to catch up.

Between 2015 and 2017, the European Travel Commission estimates, the growth in Chinese visitor numbers to Europe will slow to about 7 percent a year, partly because of "persistent travel barriers" such as complicated visa application processes.

The China Tourism Academy says that, excluding Russia, not a single continental European country or EU member nation is listed in the top 15 overseas destinations for Chinese tourists.

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