Retail in Asia

In Trends

Mainlanders prefer unique experiences over shopping


The rise of the Chinese consumer has been both fast and of immense scale. In recent years, we have observed, sometimes in awe, this powerful group of spenders enter into overseas markets and swallow up huge amounts of merchandise.

Chinese spending tourist spending hit a significant US$229 billion in 2015, according to global consultancy GfK. Forecast by Fung Business Intelligence Centre to soar to US$422 billion by 2020, the figure was much higher than the US$165 billion registered by China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange in 2014.

While such huge numbers should come as little surprise, what we may not realise is that the way Chinese consumers are spending is changing: they are increasingly preferring cultural and historical experiences over shopping.

SEE ALSO: Chinese tourist spend in London up by over 300%  

Shopping losing appeal

A study from market research company GFK revealed that long-time favourite shopping destinations like Hong Kong and Macau are losing appeal. More Chinese come to value the experience of the trip itself before shopping.

While the share that Chinese tourists spend on actual merchandise varies by destination, Thailand and Indonesia are among the lowest, as visitors tend to go there for relaxation and cultural experience — not shopping.

At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that once abroad in well-developed markets, Chinese consumers are often impressed by the competitive prices and wide product selection, not to mention the quality level of service.

Social media influence

The reach of social media has also become more influential. For example, Chinese app WeChat allows instantaneous photo and text sharing. This not only encourages users to post as they travel, but also enables people to keep up with and be influenced by the travel habits of their friends.

Chinese consumers continue to love duty-free, as more than a third of their spending overseas was recorded in this area.