Chinese tourism in France is rising by more than 15 percent each year. Last year, 550,000 Chinese visited and spent about $890 million. While plenty of that money is going to Eiffel Tower tours and the restaurants in Chinatown, it’s no surprise that the Chinese are seeking more exclusive forms of recreation: French wine tours have been satiating many tourists, who come armed with lots of money and a taste for Bordeaux.
Grand Hotel de Bordeaux and Spa, a luxury resort located in the main shopping and pedestrian area of the city of Bordeaux, sent a delegation to Shanghai and Beijing in early November to promote their tailored wine tours and to learn about the booming market. According to the company’s general manager Yan Vacher, 5 percent of the hotel’s 150-room hotel’s guests came from China in 2010. He estimates that 11 percent of guests will come from China this year, and 15-20 percent will stay in 2012.
“So when you got this result, you’ve got to understand who are your clients — you’ve got to understand why they come to Bordeaux and what are their needs,” said Vacher.
Grand Hotel de Bordeaux and Spa arranges tailored private vineyard visits for guests, who can customize their experience by requesting meals or picnics taken with the owners or even private helicopter tours over the different vineyards. Packages start at just $67 and have been getting rave reviews from Chinese tourists. Vacher revealed that to even better accommodate Chinese guests, the hotel would open a Chinese restaurant next year to cater to Chinese tourists.
Vineyards aren’t the only ones capitalizing on Chinese tastes. Large department stores like Galeries Lafayette and Au Printemps tempt tourists with their luxury brands and low prices, but it’s their exceptional customer service that drives in business.
The Chinese market has become very important to both stores. Both advertise heavily in China, both work with tour operators and travel agents there and both have good relations with the Chinese Embassy and business organizations to get the V.I.P. shopper as well. They have staff members who speak Chinese, store maps in Chinese and help for patrons to complete a “détaxe” form, which refunds most of the value-added tax. They take Chinese credit cards – the CUP card (China UnionPay) — and provide immediate cash refunds on the tax, so customers can spend more on easily transportable items, like perfumes and watches.
According to Global Blue, an international company that handles refunds of taxes for international shoppers, Chinese tourists spend an estimated $1,800 each on shopping, 60 percent of their travel budget.
“The newest arrivals are here,” said Dr. John Wu, on tour from Hong Kong. “The hottest things.” Asked what struck them on their first trip to Paris, he said, “I was surprised by all the Chinese people here!”