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The Chinese: The next generation of luxury tourists

When you think of tourists trudging through the streets with shopping bags in tow, you may call to mind an image of shoppers from Japan or the United States. Well, you may soon be adding Chinese tourists to that list. The next generation of luxury consumer tramping around the globe are from China.

In 2011, more than 57 million Chinese are predicted to travel internationally, up 3 million from last year, says a report from the China Tourism Academy. And in the process, they will spend about $55 billion on their trips.

Consumers from China are big fans of travel: They spend $6 billion more abroad than they do within their country, with high numbers of vacations to Hong Kong and Europe to purchase high-end items from luxury brands.

Due to troubles getting visas to many Western nations, Chinese travelers seem to gravitate toward regional stops such as Singapore, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Japan and South Korea, once very popular, have seen their numbers decline somewhat due to the recent earthquake and tsunami.

But what it is these shoppers are buying remains unclear. To help crack the mystery, WWD travelled with a group of 140 well-to-do Chinese consumers—including some millionaires and billionaires—to the United States, stopping in New York, Las Vegas and more. While some sightseeing and other fun was built in, shopping was definitely top on the list of things to do.

“To spend money,” Rob Guo, who works for the CEO club of the trip’s organizer, said to WWD. “That is their number-one task.”

Their purchases veered from traditional to completely unexpected. Louis Vuitton was popular, as was Giorgio Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna, Chanel, Chloé and Prada. Also unexpected was their reliance on cash over credit cards, which generated much distrust.

The majority declined to state how much their shopping totaled up to, in fear of looking ostentatious to those back in China. Some figures, however, were released. While shopping on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, in a few short hours, most managed to run through tens of thousands of dollars in merchandise. The star attraction was the Louis Vuitton’s flagship, where the women wanted to see the pieces “one by one.”
The most-purchased items on the trip were health-related products, including bottle after bottle of vitamins; high-end cosmetics; luggage; and watches, some with price tags between $40,000 and $50,000.

“There are no fake products in America,” Zhan Hongbing, a tripgoer who while on the trip dropped $100,000, said to WWD. “That is why I prefer to buy these things there.”

Many Chinese tourists visit the U.S. with thousands of dollars in cash lining their pockets. The decision of where to drop this cash depends on the locations the tour companies stop at, if the travelers can get to the stores, and if there is someone who can speak Chinese – which is rare.

“Local tour guides introduce the shops, so they go there,” Roger Wang, with Lukintl, a China-based tour company that plans trips for Chinese tourists to the U.S. told WWD. “They don’t know where to buy, but they will buy whatever they find.”

And, of course, the store owners are also walking away happy. Said one: The Chinese are our “best customers. When they come in, we know we will make our day.”

Then added, “But I don’t know if they realize this—but all of our stuff is made in China.”

Tagged in: shopping, shop, china, travel, chinese, trip, traveler, tourist, consumer,

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Purple Neon/LadyLUX via istock

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