China's Golden Week tourists 'shed inhibitions' and hit the road

Fri Oct 7, 2016 8:02am EDT
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By Neil Hall and Nicole Nee

LONDON/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - When Ines Chou was planning her "Golden Week" holiday, it was Britain's history and heritage rather than its high street shops that lured her to the country.

Chou was among a record six million Chinese expected to have traveled overseas for the holiday, which ends on Saturday, and offers insights into the changing travel tastes of a key group of holidaymakers for the retail and travel sectors in top destination countries.

"London has a lot of culture and free museums," said the marketing director from Beijing, who visited the British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Opera house during her trip.

Total spending this week by the 750 million Chinese tourists at home and abroad is expected to hit $72 billion this year, according to the China Travel Academy (CTA), a government-backed research institute.

The shopping hot spots of Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore have long been overseas favorites for Chinese visitors, but a reduced appetite for luxury due to a slower Chinese economy and crackdown on extravagance has left some retailers feeling the pinch.

"They used to spend money like nobody's business, so we would always look forward to Golden Week," said Azri, a supervisor at the Salvatore Ferragamo boutique in Singapore's upscale ION Orchard mall.

Chinese tourists could easily spend up to S$3,000 ($2,100) per person, "but now it's so difficult to get them to spend even S$1,000," Azri said.

In Hong Kong, where pro-democracy protests and anti-Chinese sentiment have angered Beijing, the number of mainland tour groups fell by 20 percent from Oct. 1-3, said Joseph Tung, executive director of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong.   Continued...

Chinese tourists jump as they pose for photographs at the esplanade of the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, October 6, 2016.  REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal