Chinese shoppers turn to retail apps, travel habits shift

Chinese are spending less overseas due to the rise of online retail merchants and platforms such as Alibaba. Source: Shutterstock

CHINESE tourists, known for their enthusiastic shopping habits while traveling, have shown a shift in travel priorities as more mobile retail apps launch in China.

A new survey of 2,000 mainland travelers by consultancy Oliver Wyman revealed shopping during overseas travel dipped 17 percent from the previous year even as outbound numbers and overall holiday expenditures continue to rise.

Last year, the average Chinese tourist spent about US$988 on shopping while traveling, down from US$1,187 in 2015. However, spending on hotels, sightseeing and experiences increased by 3.5 percent.

According to a report in Bloomberg, the shift has caused gloom to high-end brick-and-mortar retailers in luxury shopping destinations such as Paris, London, and Hong Kong.

“Businesses globally have to adjust their strategy to think about how to capture the new Chinese tourist dollar. It’s less about the outlet mall now and more about the national park,” Oliver Wyman’s Shanghai-based partner, Hunter Williams, told Bloomberg.

“Chinese travellers continue to shift their spending towards more meaningful experiences such as exquisite dining, extraordinary cultural journeys and even adventure sports.”

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Fewer Chinese are queuing up outside Fendi warehouse stores in Italy or flocking to Tokyo for toilet seat covers.

The main reason the Chinese are spending less overseas is attributed to the rise of online retail merchants and platforms such as Alibaba, a platform that has brought in the likes of Macy’s into China.

South China Morning Post reported other retailing apps such as Tmall, Taobao, RED and NetEase’s Kaola have also made it possible for the Chinese to literally buy anything with the click of a button.

However, more tour, entertainment and hotel operators might jump on the chance to lure Chinese travelers.

Oliver Wyman said businesses must adapt to understand the nuances and diversity of tourists’ preferences and motivations as more Chinese are prioritizing the joy of seeking and experiencing new places.