One of the topics we’ll be addressing later in the semester, in the context of reading an essay that Travis Klingberg and I wrote about Chinese tourism for the forthcoming volume China In and Beyond the Headlines, is the increasing global purchasing power of Chinese consumers and their growing presence in global tourism. In yesterday’s New York Times there was a somewhat fluffy article about Chinese tourists in Paris. But it does contain some morsels of information that help us appreciate the rapid growth of Chinese tourism and the impact it is having around the world:
In 2010, Chinese visitors spent about $890 million in France, 60 percent more than in 2009, according to Atout France. More Americans than Chinese come to Paris, of course, but they spend less. An American’s shopping expenditures run to 40 percent of a Chinese visitor’s. Only the Russian tourist spends more than the Chinese one, and only slightly.
Chinese tourism in France is rising by more than 15 percent a year; according to Atout France, in 2010 about 550,000 Chinese visited. The average Chinese tourist is male, about 45, lives in a large city and visits the most obvious places — the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and, of course, the shops. They spend about $1,800 each on shopping, 60 percent of their travel budget, according to Global Blue, an international company that handles refunds of taxes for international shoppers.
Large department stores in Paris advertise heavily in China, and work closely with Chinese tour operators to guarantee a steady stream of shoppers from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and other metropolitan centers of China.
Au Printemps has a special entrance for Chinese groups, and it provides a short Chinese-language briefing about the store, said Laurent Schenten, the director of the international customer department. There are Chinese-speaking personal shoppers and Chinese public-address announcements. The store offers a digital card, so that a customer — with only a set amount of time to spend before the bus leaves — does not have to wait at each boutique for purchases, which are collected for them for a single payment.
For a more intimate look at Chinese tourists as they shuttle around Europe (‘if it’s Tuesday, we must be in Italy’) see this April 18, 2011 New Yorker article by Evan Osnos: The Grand Tour