Where Chinese tourists are spending their shopping dollar

Mainland China has become one of the main global suppliers of tourists, and that has been paying dividends for retailers globally.

But as the Chinese are roaming further afield, Hong Kong and Macau retails have seen their sales dropping.

A fresh analysis from international market research company GFK shows China had 109 million outbound tourists last year… and they spent US$229 billion in retail stores. These statistics consolidate China as one of the main global sources of tourists, both in terms of number of trips and money spent while travelling internationally.

“At the same time, there have been profound changes in the behaviour of the typical Chinese traveller, with millennials firmly established as the core drivers of spending,” says GFK.

Because of its cultural similarity, accessibility and lower travel costs, Hong Hong was the preferred destination for Chinese tourists up until 2013. Shopping was a big motivation for visiting. However, since 2014, says the report, more Chinese tourists have been opting for other destinations offering historical and cultural experiences – as well as shopping.

Air travel and accommodation statistics show that at the start of November, the top five favourite destinations for Chinese travellers were South Korea (visits up 112 per cent since 2011), Thailand (up 263 per cent), Japan (up 157 per cent) and Taiwan (up 54 per cent. Surprisingly, given its loss of retail sales, Hong Kong had 37 per cent more Chinese visitors. This is explained by the new emerging middle class – consumers who do not have enough disposable income to travel further abroad, nor to spend on high-end purchases.


Europe is the most popular destination outside Asia for Chinese tourists, with 97 per cent more visits in the past four years. This is followed by North America (up 151 per cent) and the Middle East (up 177 per cent).

“China’s tourists remain strategic to Hong Kong and its businesses, as other destinations are jumping ahead in winning their favour,” says GFK global head of travel and hospitality Laurens van den Oever.

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