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Since 2012, China has been world’s highest-spending international tourism source market, with over US$250 billion in annual spending, according to UNWTO figures.
Interviews with Chinese travelers:
How much do you spend on travel?
If I travel to America and Europe, $50 – $80 a day, approximately.
Over RMB10,000 every trip.
It depends on your hotel bookings. Cheap or expensive, depends on your plan. I usually travel somewhere I have friends. I will feel secure. I don’t like to travel to somewhere strange.
Where do you spend the most money when traveling?
It depends on the purpose of visiting. Last month, I traveled to learn scuba diving, so I spent most of my budget on training. Food and accommodation are what I spend the most on when traveling in expensive countries. But it depends – the cost in Eastern Europe is less than China; the cost of food is doubled in Western Europe compared to China.
Accommodation, transportation, food and attractions.
Accommodation. The cost of food in Europe is fine – some is cheap, some is expensive. The cost of accommodation is fine.
I spend the most money on tickets for attractions. I spend the most on experiences. The cost of accommodation and transportation is fine, because I don’t have high expectations for that.
Do you make a travel budget before going?
No, I have never made a travel budget before.
Yes, normally yes, I will set up a budget.
No, not really. As long as the budget for accommodations is €50 – €60 per night, I’m okay with that. If I stay around attractions, I won’t spend more than €100 per night
In total, Chinese tourists’ spending is higher than the combined spending of travelers from the US and Germany, who are on ranked two and three on the high-spender list.
In terms of spending per trip, however, the amount for China is only about US$550. For the US it is almost US$700 per trip and for Germany more than US$1,100.
How can we explain these numbers? Almost half of all trips from Mainland China are to Hong Kong or Macau, with very low travel costs, especially for Chinese living in neighboring Guangdong or Shenzhen.
For trips beyond Hong Kong and Macau, the average spending is much higher. Figures on spending vary drastically according to different surveys and different destinations, and the few travelers spending really huge amounts on expensive watches and jewelry push up the averages. If we say that the average spending of Chinese travelers in a destination is US$1,000, this might mean 50 people spending US$10,000 each, and the other 950 spending just US$525.
As more Chinese travel abroad, average spending per person is decreasing. Chinese tourists are now less likely to travel with a shopping list for other people, as their friends and family could also be traveling overseas and able to buy the items themselves.
Daigous are professional cross-border shoppers and resellers, whose work takes advantage of price differences for duty free and other goods, but since the beginning of 2019, Chinese laws have made this form of “tourism spending” practically illegal.
Chinese tourists’ shopping behavior has changed in recent years. Especially for independent and customized group travelers, the emphasis is shifting from famous brand-name products to lifestyle-oriented goods from smaller brands. Chinese travelers are also spending more on activities, including summer and winter sports, fine dining, and learning experiences.
Especially hard hit by the changes in spending have been watch and jewelry companies. Retailers in many countries have seen sales drop by 15-25% due to a drastic reduction in “gift-giving” to officials. But souvenirs to give to friends and family at home are still a necessary purchase, and FITs are seeking out objects perceived as “authentic”, and which cannot be found in China.
For affluent Chinese travelers, spending money on mainstream brands is no longer a tool to gain prestige. Instead, personal achievements such as learning to ski, gaining knowledge about wine, or daring to do a bungee jump are more important for “Second Wave” travelers.