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Retail and the Traveling Shopper: What We Can Learn From Chinese Outbound Tourists
One topic that we follow closely at FGRT is the spending habits of traveling consumers, and interest in how tourists spend their time and income is growing across the globe. Just last week at the Magic retail trade show in Las Vegas, we heard about how airline travel passenger counts are at an all-time high. Also of note is an April survey by The NPD Group: it revealed that nearly half of US consumers plan to spend less on all categories in the next 12 months, but that 25% of them actually plan to spend more on travel—and that figure is even higher among millennials.
China is a powerful engine behind retail spending, but particularly in countries such as Japan, South Korea and Thailand, as millions of Chinese tourists travel to these markets every year. The influence of Chinese travelers, however, is expected increase across the globe, and we estimate that 192 million Chinese tourists will travel abroad annually by 2021, spending $457 billion in overseas markets.
Earlier this month, we published our comprehensive annual report, in collaboration with China Luxury Advisors, on the shopping behavior of Chinese outbound tourists. Our report outlines some of the more interesting trends we are seeing when it comes to Chinese international travelers:
  • Chinese outbound tourists have quickly evolved into experienced and sophisticated travelers. Apart from shopping, they crave lifestyle experiences when they travel abroad.
  • Tourists from lower-tier cities in China have become the growth engine for outbound tourism, spending 10% more on their last trip compared with their peers from tier-1 cities. They also travel as frequently as their counterparts from tier-1 cities, at an average of 1.9 times per year.
  • Chinese tourists are very much reliant on mobile devices, with 98% of those surveyed saying they use their smartphone while abroad to keep in touch with others and to search for travel-related information. Some 72% of survey respondents said they use online resources such as travel websites, blogs and social media to plan their trips.
These descriptions resonate with the profile of the average international tourist, who has an unprecedented level of information at her disposal and an incredibly easy way to access it before and during a trip.
Traveling consumers are a particularly dynamic market segment to study, as tourists are increasingly reliant on technology to navigate the retail landscape and inform their spending, especially when traveling to new or foreign destinations. For example, our study of Chinese tourists showed that 28% of travelers ages 18–29 consider social media their major information source for trip planning, while more than half of all surveyed travelers regard mobile payment—a payment option that is almost ubiquitous in China—as important when traveling abroad.
For retailers, learning to cater to the expectations of tourists from markets such as China could be a path to innovation in its own right. More importantly, the ability to effectively communicate and engage with a global audience digitally before, during and after a transaction is one of the skills that will surely differentiate successful retailers in the near and distant future.
  Source: Forbes

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