Chinese tourists in US are changing their habits
More Chinese want to travel to the United States and they are spending their money and time in new ways, according to market research and travel industry experts.
The consumption habits of cardholders have become more diverse, and they are showing greater interest in experiencing and exploring local cultures when touring overseas, said Cai Jianbo, CEO of UnionPay International.
Tourists said they are more willing than ever to spend money on entertainment, restaurants, star-rated hotels and other services.
“In the past, touring the US might only be focused on buying luxury brands and visiting outlets. It felt like if you don’t buy the big brands at lower prices than those in domestic markets, it was not worth the touring. Now experiencing local life is more important,” said Chen Lifu, a 54-year-old tourist to New York.
She spent two days and around $400 on books, theater and fine dining in the city, and she said it was wiser than spending it just on clothes and handbags.
“I even got up early to run in the Central Park, like the characters in my daughter’s favorite sitcoms,” she said.
And for Wang Lichang, a 42-year-old high school teacher from Shanghai, things changed when he stopped being part of a tour group.
Wang said he visited the US seven years ago with a group.
“I spent about $2,000 on buying gifts for my families and friends that time, and felt really tired. I did not savor the taste of seafood to save money, and I did not visit museums to save time for shopping. This time, I made the tour for myself, and it felt great,” said Wang.
“Without being in a group, which means there is no guide, no group traffic, and no accommodation booking, you need to do it all by yourself, and there is more freedom to spend,” he said.
Consumers also are demanding more than just a quick look at a destination and moving on to another place the next day, said Feng Yun, marketing director of Shanghai-based China Travel Service’s (CTS) head office.
The old tales of Chinese tourists eating instant noodles to save money are rarely seen in the US, as Chinese consumers are quite willing to pay for fine food, said Bai Huiqing, a 24-year-old student who is a part-time waitress at an upscale restaurant.
“They would ask me what is recommended, and care a lot about the wine. Many dine for two hours or longer time. They are not in a rush, and would love to try different things,” said Bai.
Research by UnionPay and CTS in May show the compound annual growth rate of Chinese consumers’ spending on dining in the past year was more than 65 percent.
Chinese consumers’ transaction value at US shopping malls has surged in recent years, according to point-ofsale data from merchants, said UnionPay International.
The malls also have benefited from Chinese tourists who want to spend in different ways.Transactions by Chinese cardholders almost tripled in the past three years at the upscale South Coast Plaza shopping mall in Costa Mesa, California, according to UnionPay data.
More tourists also are backpacking on their US trips, which is changing their consumption patterns.
The customary 12- day tour package for coastal cities accounts for less of the market than before, and an increasing number of tourists are taking backpack tours and want to stay in various cities for a longer time, which means more spending on accommodations and transportation, according to Feng.
“The changing picture of China’s consumers may bring more opportunities to retailers and other hospitality sectors alike. More diversified demands means more niche markets,” said Feng.