On average, 74 percent of the money a Chinese visitor spends in Hong Kong is spent shopping.
Chinese tourism abroad has increased more than five times since 2000, and projections indicate that it will continue to rise. There is plenty of room for increase: the 57.4 million Chinese that traveled abroad in 2010 represents only 4 percent of the total mainland population. However, the vast majority of Chinese travelers stay close to home.
Although Hong Kong is the most popular Chinese tourist destination, with approximately 22.7 million visitors in 2010—11.7 million of which were overnight visitors — mainland Chinese hate shopping in Hong Kong.
Citing poor shopping experiences and bad attitudes from salespeople, Chinese shoppers tolerate these excursions because Hong Kong is convenient and familiar.
China National Tourism Administration polled 65 percent independent travelers and 35 percent tour agency travelers and found that mainland Chinese tourists in Hong Kong are generally dissatisfied with their shopping experiences. Hong Kong scored a low 77 out of 100 marks.
“The biggest problem is the shopping environment,” said Dai Bin, director of the China National Tourism Administration’s China Tourism Academy.
Mainlanders don’t like the salespeoples’ attitudes. Many independent and group travelers complained of feeling pressured into buying. “When you buy something cheap, their faces change,” said Wang Wanfei, professor of tourism management at Zhejiang University.
While Europe and the United States can’t compete with Hong Kong’s proximity or cultural similarity, they may be more winsome.
Two major demographic groups that travel to Europe and the U.S. are tour groups and high-net-worth individuals.
Tour groups tend to be made up of families or couples. The groups afford members a sense of security in far-off places, allowing them to cross language barriers with the help of guides or interpreters.
High-net-worth individuals tend to be a younger, professional demographic of ages 30-45. These individuals speak English and are interested in long-distance travel: Europe and the U.S. These individuals use the Internet to research products and hotels, according to New World Hospitality’s Senior VP of Operations Symon Bridle.
Despite potential differences in affluence and obvious differences in independence, Chinese tour groups and high-net-worth individuals have at least one common characteristic: a love of shopping.
Hong Kong certainly has some competition and can lose mainland Chinese shoppers to Europe, the United States, and even mainland China.