Journey down Fifth Avenue, stroll along the Champs-Elysées or wander down Via Montenapoleone, and chances are you’ll encounter at least a few Chinese tourists laden with shopping bags. This year, more than 57 million Chinese are expected to travel abroad, an increase of 3 million from 2010, according to a report released from the China Tourism Academy earlier this year. The report estimates the travelers will spend $55 billion on international travel.
The Shanghai-based China Market Research firm estimates that Chinese tourists spent $54 billion outside the Mainland in 2010, and tourism spending abroad is growing at about 12 to 14 percent a year. Chinese tourists as a group actually spend about $6 billion more overseas than they do domestically, due to the large number of trips to Hong Kong —and increasingly Europe —- to buy big-ticket luxury brand items like bags, shoes, clothes, watches and jewelry.
Regional destinations like Singapore, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan still remain at the top in terms of outbound tourism for Chinese. Although Europe and America are growing in popularity, it is still difficult for China’s travelers to get visas, particularly to the U.S.
Japan and South Korea are more popular destinations for Chinese tourists than the U.S. or Europe, but in the wake of the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis in Japan, thousands of Mainland tourists have canceled trips to Tokyo and other parts of the country. Yet there is little indication these tourists have, so far, switched travel plans to America or even Europe, according to Fritz Demopoulos, founder of Qunar.com, a travel search engine in China.
“Tokyo is not really in the same bucket as London or New York or San Francisco or Los Angeles,” Demopoulos said. “Instead of going to Tokyo this year, they will go to Seoul or Kuala Lumpur or back to Singapore.”
Stories are rife about rich Chinese traveling overseas and spending outrageous amounts of money in luxury stores stretching from London to Los Angeles. But there are relatively few in-depth details about what, exactly, China’s rich, particularly those from second- and third-tier cities, are actually buying.
WWD gleaned some rare insight into these consumers and their buying habits when it accompanied a group of 140 well-heeled Chinese consumers on a recent trip to the United States, with stops in New York, Boston, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The group of newly rich — some were multimillionaires and even billionaires — came from across China. For most, it was their first time leaving their home country.
Yan Jiehe, a construction tycoon considered one of China’s wealthiest men, organized the trip. Two years ago, Yan founded an exclusive CEO club aimed at helping small enterprises pool their resources to secure investment or government contracts for construction projects. Those who went on the trip to America were largely members of the club or family members of members of the club. Many never graduated from college.
During their 12-day tour, the group met with Bill Clinton in New York and Larry Summers at Harvard, gambled in Las Vegas and toured Universal Studios in Hollywood. When they were not sightseeing or eating at Chinese restaurants in Chinatowns across the U.S., they shopped — a lot.
It won’t just be the U.S. that gets a slice of the Fashion’s Night Out action. As in previous years, the event will take place globally. There will be 17 countries participating in this fall’s event, starting on Sept. 6, when Russia’s Fashion’s Night Out will take place. That will be followed by Spain on Sept. 7, with Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Portugal, the U.K. and São Paulo, Brazil, all holding their events on Sept. 8, along with the U.S. Come Sept. 9, Brazil will hold another event, in Rio de Janeiro, followed by Taiwan and India on the 10th, China on the 11th and Turkey on Sept. 15.
Alexandra Shulman, editor of British Vogue, said of the London event: “We’re delighted to draw people’s attention to the fact that fashion and retail are a hugely important and enjoyable part of [the U.K.’s] economy. Last year, we had 270 stores in central London participating, while shoppers embraced the mood in what felt like one large party,” she said. “We’re looking forward to an even bigger and brighter night later this year.”