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