Bil­lions at stake in Asia as Chi­nese tourists go on a shop­ping spree

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

BEI­JING: Mil­lions of Chi­nese tourists have been pack­ing their bags for dis­tant and not-too dis­tant shores for the Na­tional Day hol­i­day, with early in­di­ca­tors point­ing to a slump in book­ings for neigh­bour­ing Tai­wan and Hong Kong.

The “Golden Week” break, which starts to­day in one of the world’s big­gest mass move­ments by plane, boat and train, of­fers a snap­shot of Chi­nese hol­i­day­mak­ers and their chang­ing tastes and habits as eco­nomic growth at home stut­ters. It is also a peak sea­son for re­tail­ers out­side China look­ing to lift their top line. Sin­ga­pore is lur­ing Chi­nese shop­pers with dis­counts and pro­mo­tions while South Korea is trum­pet­ing a month­long Korea Grand Sale.

Shin­segae Duty Free in Seoul’s Myeong­dong area pop­u­lar with Chi­nese has been mak­ing prepa­ra­tions since July.

“We are ex­pect­ing many Chi­nese tourists, so we think sales will increase a lot,” said shop of­fi­cial Ahn Joo-yeon .

Thai­land ex­pects 220 000 Chi­nese vis­i­tors dur­ing the break, up about 30 per­cent from last year, de­spite a dou­bling in visa fees, a spate of bomb­ings in the south of the coun­try and fears of the spread of the Zika virus.

Thai­land con­firmed yes­ter­day that Zika had caused two cases of mi­cro­cephaly, a con­di­tion that re­sults in ba­bies be­ing born with small heads, the first time the con­di­tion had been linked to Zika in South­east Asia.

“So far there has been no im­pact (from Zika fears) on our Thai­land route,” said Wang Yan­fei, mar­ket and PR man­ager at Shang­hai Spring In­ter­na­tional Travel Ser­vice.

“We will give warn­ings and tips on our group no­tices. Team lead­ers will re­mind trav­ellers of Zika and mos­quito is­sues be­fore the tour starts.”

Thai­land’s tourism author­ity said it ex­pects Chi­nese vis­i­tors to spend 7.8 bil­lion baht (R3.1bn) dur­ing the Oc­to­ber 1-9 break, up 39 per­cent from a year ear­lier.

To­tal tourist spend­ing in China and by Chi­nese abroad is ex­pected to surge 13.5 per­cent to 478 bil­lion yuan (R985bn) dur­ing the hol­i­day, ac­cord­ing to China Travel Acad­emy, a government- backed re­search in­sti­tute.

A re­duced ap­petite for lux­ury due to a slower Chi­nese econ­omy and a crack­down on ex­trav­a­gance has also hit vis­its to the for­mer Bri­tish colony of Hong Kong, which has been racked by pro-democ­racy protests and anti-China sen­ti­ment in re­cent years, in­fu­ri­at­ing Bei­jing.

Paul Le­ung, chair­man of the Hong Kong In­bound Travel As­so­ci­a­tion, ex­pects a 20-30 per­cent slide in main­land tour groups from about 300 tours a day last year.

“For tour op­er­a­tors, Golden Week is no longer a golden pe­riod,” said Joseph Tung, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Travel In­dus­try Coun­cil of Hong Kong.

Due to short flight times and looser visa poli­cies, South Korea and Ja­pan have re­mained pop­u­lar.

Bei­jing has protested against a US de­ci­sion to de­ploy an ad­vanced anti-mis­sile sys­tem in South Korea, to counter mis­sile threats from North Korea. China wor­ries the sys­tem’s radar will be able to track its own mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Still, all the travel groups to South Korea and Ja­pan, with which Bei­jing has a rocky re­la­tion­ship due to a ter­ri­to­rial row and other dis­putes dat­ing back to World War II, were sold out at ma­jor agen­cies two months be­fore the hol­i­day. – Reuters

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