Chi­nese tourists in US are chang­ing their habits

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By WU YIYAO

wuyiyao@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

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